Sunday, 23 September 2007

Trust the government - a fine example

I blogged earlier that 53% of those polled did not trust the government to tell the truth over recent "issues". I wasn't going to go back over all of the examples of this government fiddling figures or lying to us but then I considered the matter of unpaid fines.

In March 2002 it was reported that "More than one-third of financial penalties handed down last year went unpaid, says a report from the National Audit Office today. Across the 42 magistrates' court districts in England and Wales, penalties totalling £385 million were imposed but less than two-thirds of this was collected." The report included some examples of how fines came to be unpaid "In Cheshire, between 1996 and August 2000, magistrates imposed eight fines on a man for fraud and various motoring offences. Last year, he still owed £1,100 despite 60 enforcement actions and 26 enforcement hearings against him.

A man fined £80 plus £50 costs for criminal damage in south Durham in 1998 accumulated further fines totalling £500 by the following year. A series of enforcement notices were returned marked "Gone away". Eventually he was arrested in April 2000 and an order made for the money to be deducted from his wages. The fines were eventually paid off in May 2001.

In inner London a man failed to pay £1,000 compensation for damaging a car in a "road rage" incident. Eventually a warrant was issued for his arrest only to find he was already in jail on another offence. Magistrates asked the victim if he would waive the compensation, something he refused to do. Seven years later he is still waiting for his payment.

In 1991 magistrates in Cheshire imposed a fine of £160 and a compensation payment of £1,782 to the victim of a deception. In the intervening 11 years the court has taken 120 actions against the defaulter, including cancelling the fine in 1994. These include summonses, arrest warrants, committal to prison (suspended), changes of instalment plans and attachment of earnings orders. The victim is still waiting for the money to be paid."

In May this year, it was reported that "Almost half the fines imposed on offenders remain unpaid six months after they were handed out by the courts, according to Whitehall's spending watchdog.

In a critical report, the National Audit Office said that in some parts of the country the proportion of fines collected is as low as one in three. Last year alone, magistrates' courts imposed fines totalling £352 million but only £222 million was collected.

Of the remainder, around £75 million of fines were cancelled because they had been set at the wrong level, while the remaining £55 million were unpaid."

This article finished thus "The NAO's conclusions contrast with the Government's claim that the national payment rate for fines has risen from 55 to 80 per cent over the past three years."

In July this year, it was reported that "The amount of uncollected court fines has risen despite a high-profile Government campaign to improve performance.

Ministry of Justice data released today shows £486 million in fines was outstanding at the end of March in England and Wales, up £12 million on the previous year."

So there is a clear problem that a high percentage of fines were not being collected so this glorious Government had to do something and they did... According to a report in today's Telegraph (which I cannot find on-line, please assist...) what the Government have actually done is to write off millions of pounds of fines a year. "Around £50 million of unpaid fines are simply being cancelled or discontinued...The practice has allowed ministers to claim a dramatic rise in the rate at which fines are being paid...As a result, the official proportion of "paid" fines has shot up from around 60 per cent a few years ago to 98 per cent now."

Listen out for Labour claims that the "proportion of paid fines has increased from 60% to 98% and listen out for the complete lack of questioning of the figures by the Main Stream Media.

Now ask yourself this, what other "official" figures are being fiddled?

1 comment:

Anon said...

Its hard to trust anything with the "Official" stamp these days, I prefer to trust what I know and soldier on :D