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Irish Independent: 3,500 jailed for not paying fines in 2009

1st February 2010

By Louise Hogan and Shane Phelan in the Irish Independent.

New figures obtained by the Irish Independent reveal there has been a jump of more than 150% in the numbers jailed for failing to pay fines since 2007.

At least 62 of those jailed in the past year were thrown in prison for failing to pay court fines imposed for not having the €160 television licence. That figure has doubled since 2006, when just 31 were jailed for this offence.

It has been proposed that new measures need to be introduced to cut down on the number of people being jailed for the inability to pay fines. A Fines Bill, introduced by Justice Minister Dermot Ahern, is expected to become law later this year. It will allow for the payment of fines by instalments and will allow for the assessment of a person's capacity to pay. The bill will also give the courts power to impose community service orders on people who don't pay fines in time, rather than sending them to prison.

Figures obtained by the Irish Independent show 3,366 people were jailed in the first 10 months of last year because they refused to, or were unable to, pay fines. This compares to 2,520 in 2008 and 1,335 in 2007. In the majority of those cases, people were jailed for non-payment of road traffic fines. 

Opposition TDs last night said an alternative to jail sentences must be found immediately. 

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