Majority of court fines are going unpaid
Around two-thirds of fines issued by Irish courts are going unpaid, according to a briefing prepared for Justice Minister Heather Humphreys.
Although the number of people imprisoned for non-payment of fines has decreased as a result of recent reforms, collection rates also dropped as many defaulters failed to appear for enforcement hearings.
The minister’s briefing showed that just 35 per cent of fines imposed by the courts were paid in 2019 and as of February this year, the figure for the fines given in 2020 was that only 28 per cent of them were paid.
The government is considering ways to improve the collection of fines and are looking to the UK for inspiration where private collection companies are hired to make collections.
Reforms to the law reduced the number of defaulters ending up in prison for non-payment and brought in alternative sanctions of attachment orders to deduct the fine directly from a person’s salary, recovery orders where a receiver is appointed to collect the money, and community service orders.
The persistently high rates of unpaid fines despite the new measures have been attributed to the fact that the alternative orders can only be made once the defaulter is in attendance at an enforcement hearing. Failure to attend means the court cannot apply a sanction and many fines are left unpaid.
A Department of Justice group set up in 2019 has been considering ways to ensure the effectiveness of the alternative sanctions including a short term plan to address the issue and proposing longer-term reforms to the system.