Fine dodgers will face court

FINE dodgers in Essex are to be hauled before the courts as part of a national initiative called Operation Payback aimed at recouping millions of pounds in unpaid penalties.

FINE dodgers in Essex are to be hauled before the courts as part of a national initiative called Operation Payback aimed at recouping millions of pounds in unpaid penalties.

Essex Magistrates' Courts already have one of the best records in the country for recovering outstanding debts but it is set to get even tougher to reclaim the £2.8 million still owing.

Money is owed to compensate the victims of crime as well as to the public purse by way of fines and costs to reimburse prosecuting authorities. The total amount nationally is £354.4 million.

Persistent offenders and defaulters will be targeted. Every available enforcement tool will be used, including seizing personal property for sale, such as cars, and arresting individuals - who could end up being jailed.


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The crackdown is being spearheaded in the county by the Essex Magistrates' Courts Committee, working with Essex Police and local enforcement agents.

Essex enforcement director Richard Hawkes said: "The public in Essex demand that we do everything we can to chase every defaulter who won't pay, whilst doing everything we can to help those who can't pay.

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"Our staff and magistrates work very hard to achieve 90% payment rates. But this still leaves money owing not to the courts or the police but to you and me, as taxpayers, and to victims of crime."

Increased numbers of warrants will be executed by police - but they are keeping silent as to where and when they will call.

Chief Inspector Tim Crux, from Essex Police, said: "Some defaulters behave as if payment is voluntary, to be put off in favour of commercial debts. Nothing could be further from the truth and if you don't come to us then we will be coming to you, and soon. The message is - find us before we find you; pay up or pay the price."

Payment can be made to the Essex Payment Office at Southend Courthouse in person, by post, by telephone (01702) 283830, or via the internet www.essex-mcc.gov.uk/PayingAFine.asp.

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