Offenders owe almost £11m to courts
COURTS in the Avon and Somerset area are owed almost £11 million in unpaid fines and court fees.
The figure has climbed by more than £1 million in the last five years.
The debt is made up of fines for specific offences, payment for court costs, compensation paid to victims of crime and fees called victim surcharges. People are normally asked to pay the money owed in instalments dependent on their means.
The total figure for the Avon and Somerset area has grown by more than one million since 2008 and peaked in 2010 at £11,825.989. The latest figures, accurate in June of this year, put the total debt at £10,939,466.
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The amount outstanding is the total debt owed, which includes fines being collected by instalments, and outstanding money from previous months or even years. Each year a number of fines are cancelled.
The reasons for cancellation include the offender having died or permanently emigrated, the amount outstanding being less than £10 or the offender being a limited company that has been wound up.
Fines will also be cancelled if the offender cannot be traced and the fine is more than a year old.
Gary Cooper, data collection manager from Her Majesty's Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS), told The Post the courts try to claw back the debts using a number of methods.
He said: "HMCTS focuses on early compliance with financial impositions by using a number of methods such as the use of telephone and text message reminders to defaulters, intelligence tracing tools, increased use of enforcement sanctions like deduction from benefit orders and attachment of earnings and targeted payment blitzes on specific groups of defaulters.
"There are a number of other initiatives being developed to further improve the collection of financial penalties."
Matthew Sinclair, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "Taxpayers will be astounded and aghast to learn that there is over £10 million owing in unpaid fines across Avon and Somerset alone.
"It's simply not fair on law-abiding citizens if those convicted of an offence and punished with a fine are not handing over what they owe.
"The authorities clearly need to do more to ensure that these punishments are properly enforced and that the missing millions are not allowed to slip through the net."
The figures were obtained by The Post through a freedom of information request