Today, Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Mr. Alan Shatter, announced that the government has approved the final drafting of the Fines (Amendment) Bill 2012.
The Bill attempts to reform the Irish fine payment and recovery system through alterations to the system of payment by instalment, attachment of earnings orders, and the use of community service orders in the event of default. It ultimately aims to 'all but eliminate the need to commit anyone to prison for the non-payment of fines'.
While welcoming the law, FLAC has identified concerns around the proposal to introduce attachment to earnings orders for people who fail to pay their fines either in full or by instalment. Listen to Paul Joyce, FLAC Senior Researcher, discuss the issues on RTÉ's 'Morning Ireland' here.
IPRT also welcomes moves by the Minister for Justice to bring to an end the ineffective and pointless practice of imprisoning people for failure to pay court-ordered fines. However, it is now over two years since the Fines Act 2010 was signed into law, and the Courts ICT system still hasn’t received the upgrade necessary to process payment of fines by instalment. The new legislation will be of little effect unless this system is put in place with urgency.
Given the increased financial pressure people are experiencing due to the recession and austerity measures, IPRT recommends that:
- the minimum of €100 for eligibility for payment of a fine by instalment should be removed;
- the provision in the 2010 legislation which allows for fines to be paid by instalment over a 24-month period in special circumstances must be retained;
- we also have reservations over the admin charge (of up to 10%) which is to be imposed on those who opt to pay by instalment.
IPRT has recently called on the Minister for Justice to consider making use of the right of pardon and the power to commute or remit punishment to bring the prison population within the safe custody limits recommended by the Inspector of Prisons. One suggestion is to remit (partly or in full) or introduce an amnesty for some or all fines defaulters to ease pressure on strained prison resources.
- MerrionStreet.ie: 'Minister Shatter announces Government approval for Drafting of Fines (Amendment) Bill'
- Department of Justice: General Scheme of the Fines (Amendment) Bill 2012
- Department of Justice: General Scheme of the Fines (Amendment) Bill 2012: Regulatory Impact Analysis