£2bn crime assets and fines unpaid
Almost £2 billion is owed in unpaid court fines and confiscation orders, figures have shown.
Officials chasing criminal assets and other confiscated items worth £1.3 billion expect at least £750 million of this never to be paid because they are either abroad or too well-hidden, a report by the Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said.
Some £600 million is also owed in unpaid fines, despite a further £50 million being written off in 2010-11 as officials deemed there was little prospect of it ever being paid. Margaret Hodge, the committee's chairwoman, warned that the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) was not making enough progress in getting the money it is owed.
She said: "It has increased the amount of money collected through fines but this is being outpaced by the growth in fines outstanding. And the ministry acknowledges that 60% of the money outstanding under confiscation orders may never be recovered."
The PAC report on the department's finances said the value of outstanding confiscation orders has more than doubled from just over £500 million in 2006-07 to £1.25 billion in 2010-11 and £1.3 billion by the middle of 2011-12.
The report added: "Amounts owed under confiscation orders have risen dramatically. No one body has overall responsibility for overseeing collection of confiscation orders but all the sums are accounted for in the ministry's financial statements.
"The ministry, through the new cross-Government board, should take steps to set responsibilities for raising, collecting and accounting for confiscation orders to incentivise collection agencies to maximise sums collected."
It added that while the amount of fines collected has increased over the last five years, "the amount outstanding has increased even more".
"HM Courts and Tribunals Service needs to improve its collection rates and should focus in particular on the timeliness of collection given that it is easier to collect fines nearer the time of imposition," the report said.
It also criticised the MoJ for being "unable to deliver timely and accurate financial accounts".