Belfast Telegraph

Number jailed over fines soars

The number of people jailed for not paying a court fine almost doubled last year for the second year in a row, new figures have revealed.

The Irish Prison Service's latest report shows 4,806 people were put behind bars in 2009 for failing to pay fines - a jump of 91% from the previous year.

A spokesman for the service said there was no breakdown of the type of fines but they ranged from disorderly conduct and motoring offences to the non-payment of television licences.

"With the Minister for Justice introducing the Fines Bill in the near future we would expect this figure to drop fairly substantially," he added.

A total of 12,339 people were sent to prison last year, an increase of 13% on 2008.

Nine out of ten of those jailed were men.

The number of people serving less than three months soared by more than 60% to 5,750, while inmates jailed for ten years or more rose by 8% from 65 to 70.

Prisoners serving sentences of between three to five years increased by more than a third in 2009 to 469, with 139 people in this category jailed for drug offences.

Meanwhile, the average cost of keeping a prison space fell by more than 15,000 euro to 77,000 euro - a drop the Prison Service put down to lower pay costs and more beds.

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