Astonishment as outstanding payments to Suffolk courts top £7million
11:00 13 January 2016
Unpaid fines and charges imposed by Suffolk courts now stand at more than £7million – a rise of more than 40% in three years, according to the Ministry of Justice.
The county’s Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore said he was astonished by the massive hike in outstanding payments, with at least two dating back 13 years.
In May 2012 the total figure in Suffolk stood at £5million.
Mr Passmore said: “The collection of these fines is a cornerstone of our British Criminal Justice System. These penalties are set by the courts and there is justifiable public expectation that the money is paid when due.
“I am absolutely astonished that such huge sums of money remain uncollected and this is most unsatisfactory – it has the potential to significantly undermine public trust and confidence in the justice system.
“Fines are imposed for a reason and should act as a deterrent for other would be offenders and this dismissive attitude to payment of fines by some individuals should not be tolerated and is also completely unfair to the victims
“I have asked for this important matter to be discussed at the next criminal justice board meeting to find out exactly what actions need to be taken to improve collection rates as a matter of urgency.”
An investigation by the EADT has discovered some of the amounts owing date back 10 years or more, with one 44-year-old man from Lowestoft still needing to pay £113.88 as part of compensation from 2003 for a theft offence.
As of last month he was still appearing on court lists where his remaining total debt was £853.88 dating from 2003 to 2009.
A 51-year-old man from Trimley St Mary, near Felixstowe, also had an outstanding payment of £121 from 2003 for a speeding conviction. It is the longest defaulted payment among a total of £5,381.53 from more than 20 other convictions he has accrued over the past 12 years.
In another case a 40-year-old man from east Ipswich still owed £5,935.76 in September last year for convictions between 2004 and 2012.
In May 2005 the Ministry of Justice said there was £5,062,730 still to be collected after being imposed by Suffolk courts. That figure had risen by around £500,000 from 2010.
However, in reply to a Freedom of Information request the MoJ now say that figure rose to £7,123,921 as of September 30 last year.
Part of the reason for the rise is that some people who continually appear before the court have fines accounts to which amounts are added and then small deductions are made from their benefits over a period of time.
Also, for a significant part of last year the Government’s ill-fated criminal courts charge was in place which added at least £150 to the amount everyone who was found or pleaded guilty was told to pay.
The MoJ also said collection reached an all-time high at the end of 2014/15 with a total of £310m being brought in during the 12 months.
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Ipswich magistrates only discovered Gediminas Petrutis had failed to pay any of the £585 he has owed to the court since May 2014 when he appeared before them on another matter.
The clerk of the court told them the 23-year-old, of Bramford Lane, Ipswich, had not made any payments despite previously saying he would pay £50 a week.
The clerk said: “There have been attempts to enforce it but it seems he has had a different address.”
Through an interpreter the Lithuanian national said: “I changed address and changed job. I just didn’t have time.”
Petrutis, who works unloading containers at Ipswich docks, assured magistrates he would now pay £40 to £50 a week.
He was told his first payment was expected within seven days.
Magistrates were only aware of the outstanding amount because Petrutis was arrested and charged for attempting to headbutt a police sergeant.
The incident occurred on December 11 while Petrutis was out celebrating on his 23rd birthday.
Prosecutor Lesla Small said police had been called to Rope Walk, Ipswich, at around 6.50pm to reports of an incident involving five males.
Petrutis was among the group who were asked to stop, but he tried to walk away.