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Irish Examiner: '540 people jailed for not paying small fines'

30th May 2011

Writing in the Irish Examiner, Mary Regan reports on a "dramatic rise" in the numbers being imprisoned for not paying small fines, despite the introduction of laws to ensure imprisonment is used as a last resort.

The figures, given by Minister Shatter in a Dáil Question, reveal that 541 people were jailed in 2010 for failure to pay parking, TV and dog licence fines. This is a significant increase on 2007, when 63 people were imprisoned.

This is despite the signing into law of the Fines Act in June 2010, which Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said "introduces a number of measures to prevent the automatic imprisonment of fine defaulters", according to the article. The law, which allows for the payment of fines by instalments, hasn't yet been full enacted as the Courts Service ICT system has not yet been upgraded to allow for payment by installment.

The article reports that the Irish Penal Reform Trust has described jailing people for not paying fines as a "redundant exercise" and "extremely costly and wasteful in terms of courts, gardaí and prison resources". 

The Evening Herald also reported on imprisonment for fines, citing IPRT's executive director Liam Herrick as saying the figures "indicated the principle of imprisonment as a last resort in the case of fine defaulters had not yet become reality."

"As well as avoidable costs to prisons, courts and gardai, more importantly individuals are being committed to our overcrowded and unsafe prisons in cases where judges have already determined that prisons sentences are not appropriate."

Liam also spoke to Q102's 'Scott Williams Show' and 4FM's 'Talkback with David Harvey' on the issue.

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