‘Insult to victims’ as £70m in court fines written off

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More than £70m in fines imposed by the criminal courts was written off by the Government last year, official figures show.

A total of £75,868,426 in fines and other imposed court costs was “administratively cancelled” in 2012-13, a near £30m increase on the amount written off in 2009/10, when £47,398,379 was not collected, Justice Minister Shailesh Vara revealed.

Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan said victims of crime will feel insulted by the write-offs which leave taxpayers “short-changed”.

Mr Khan, who uncovered the figures using a series of written parliamentary questions, blamed the “incompetence” in collecting money owed on staff cutbacks under the coalition.

The number of staff working to collect fines for Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) was cut from 1,786 in December 2011 to 1,335 in December 2013.

Meanwhile, the number of fines written off rose by more than 40,000 in a year with 269,486 in 2012-13, up from 226,955 in 2011-12.

Mr Khan said: “This is a shocking figure which victims of crime will find insulting. Courts give fines as a punishment – payment of them is not some optional extra for those found guilty.

“The fact that the Ministry of Justice is so incompetent at collecting the money owed shows their skewed priorities.”

The figures cover fines, prosecutor costs, compensation and victim surcharges, all imposed by the courts.

Mr Vara said the value outstanding will include amounts remaining on accounts that are being paid by instalments or were not due for payment by the end of the period specified by the court.

The Justice Minister said the Government was actively seeking to contract an outside provider to enforce payment of fines.