NEW figures have revealed that offenders in Staffordshire have failed to pay more than £11 million in fines handed out by courts.
A report by the Commons Public Accounts Committee, which scrutinises Government spending, has found that thousands of people who were handed fines in the last five years have not complied with court orders.
In Staffordshire, more than £11.1 million has yet to be paid — despite £5.5 million in offenders’ debts being written off in the last three years.
Figures show about £6.6 million a year is successfully collected by the courts.
Her Majesty’s Courts Service (HMCS) said it was pursuing the debts and negotiating deals which required payment of small sums each week, many involving deductions from benefits.
Now, the Government has pledged a crackdown on court debts, including introducing online payments, telephone debt-chasing and new training for fines collection staff.
It is also lobbying magistrates to order more fines to be paid on the day they are imposed, rather than over a long period of time.
The debts total includes fines handed out by both magistrates and crown Cash-saving cure courts, prosecution costs, victim surcharges, compensation orders and unpaid fixed penalty notices.
Margaret Hodge, the committee’s chairman, warned that not enough progress was being made in getting the money the state is owed by offenders.
She said: “HMCS has increased the amount of money collected through fines but this is being outpaced by the growth in fines outstanding. The ministry acknowledges that 60 per cent of the money outstanding under confiscation orders may never be recovered.” A spokesman for HMCS said: “The Government takes the issue of fine enforcement very seriously and Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service is working hard to ensure that clamping down on fine dodgers is a continued priority nationwide.
“The courts will do everything within their powers to trace those who do not pay.“ Money can be taken from an offender’s earnings, or from benefits if they are unemployed.
“Warrants can be issued instructing court-employed agents to seize and sell goods belonging to the offender.
“Ultimately, an offender can be imprisoned for non-payment of their fine.”