Belfast Telegraph

Fines could be taken from income

Fine defaulters could have the money deducted from their income under proposals being considered by the Justice Minister.

Earnings or benefits could be docked as part of a range of reforms aimed at reducing the numbers of people imprisoned for not paying, David Ford added.

"The justice system cannot continue to send people to prison for a days at a time for not paying their fines," he said.

"This is an untenable position and the system must do better in dealing with fine defaulters."

He said the proposals could help create a fine enforcement system that is effective, efficient and fair.

Proposals include developing a civilian enforcement service, largely removing police from that duty, and giving fines officers the power to manage and collect fines.

Expanding the way in which people can pay and manage their fines including taking money directly from earnings and benefits is also being considered, along with increasing the opportunities for community-based penalties instead of imprisonment.

Mr Ford added: "One of my priorities has been to find additional ways of preventing people ending up in prison for non-payment of fines. Often these are low level fines, for offences which would not attract a prison sentence.

"Providing the opportunity to clear a fine by direct deduction, avoiding imprisonment and the traumatic effects this can have on families, is an important option in appropriate circumstances.

"I recognise the potential impact on those on low incomes and will ensure that key aspects of income will be protected - protections to ensure that outgoings relating to housing costs, rent arrears, fuel costs, domestic rates, child support and maintenance, for example, would not be affected."

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