Courts Minister Chester Borrows announced today that the amount of fines and reparation owed has reached its lowest level in eight years, falling more than 25 per cent in three years.
“This Government is committed to building a safer New Zealand, and to do that every part of our justice system has to deliver results. Fines and reparations are an important tool to deal with offenders, but they must be seen as a credible and effective sanction,” says Mr Borrows.
“From a peak of $806.8 million at the end of 2008/09, a combination of falling crime rates and smarter enforcement has brought the amount of outstanding fines below $600 million for the first time since November 2004. Even more encouraging is the fall in overdue fines, which have dropped from 58 per cent of the outstanding balance five years ago to 43 per cent now.”
“These significant improvements show that new measures introduced by this Government are paying real dividends in the way people perceive fines and reparations.”
New measures introduced by the Government to improve fines collections include:
· Improved data matching with the IRD and MSD, to help locate people refusing to pay fines. In the first 11 months of operation this has brought in $38.5 million of unpaid fines.
· Police powers to stop people at the border who have unpaid fines or reparations, bringing in a further $2.5 million paid or under arrangement in the last four years.
· Credit Check of Fines, which enables the Ministry to tell credit reporting agencies if a potential client has overdue fines or reparation, in return for updated contact information on that person. Since being launched in February more than 200,000 checks have been completed, resulting in $1.9 million being collected and a further $6.9 million placed under a payment arrangement.
The vast majority of fines owing (around 90 per cent) are infringement fines such as traffic offences. The remaining ten per cent is made up of court imposed fines (five per cent), reparations (two per cent) and offender levies and other costs (three per cent).
“These initiatives illustrate how determined this Government is to maintain fines as a credible and effective part of our justice system. With a range of new measures and improved technology, it is easier than ever before to make arrangements to pay your fines, and harder than ever before to get away with not paying. My message to these people is to come to us before we come to you,” says Mr Borrows.
Repayment of fines and reparation can be organised by phoning the court on 0800 434 637 or going online at www.fines.govt.nz.