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Labour watches as $41m in fines wiped

Simon Power National Party Law & Order Spokesman

12 March 2006

Labour watches as $41m in fines wiped

Judges are being forced to wipe more and more fines because the collection system is not working, says National's Law & Order spokesman, Simon Power.

He has released figures from Court Minister Rick Barker which show that last year, $41.5 million in fines was remitted. This compares with $40.5 million in 2004 and $29.4 million in 2001, a year after Labour came into office.

The figures also show that a total of 164,761 fines were remitted last year, compared with 149,087 last year and only 110,709 in 2001.

"With these figures continuing to climb it is clear the system is not working," says Mr Power. "In many cases, judges are wiping fines because they know they will not be paid.

"Serial non-payers are coming in front of the courts time and again, with judges faced with limited options to deal with them. They can either issue further fines or wipe them and sentence them to community service. But from what I am told community service is not working as it should because it's not policed properly.

"Some of these figures have doubled since Labour came into office promising to solve the fines problem. For example, in Canterbury courts, $4.4 million of fines were remitted last year compared with only $2 million in 2001.

"If that's what Rick Barker calls a success I would hate to see what he regards as a failure. He must wake up and realise it is imperative the fines system is beefed up. Offenders need to know that the courts will impose fines and then chase them.

"We must send a strong message to people that if they are fined they have to pay. If Labour doesn't start enforcing punishments, more people will thumb their noses at our justice system."

Mr Power says answers to written questions also show that last year, 3,025 people were sentenced to community service for not paying fines, and 247 were sent to prison.

ENDS

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