IPRT - Irish Penal Reform Trust

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Fines (Payment and Recovery) Bill 2013 - Second Stage

25th September 2013

The Fines (Payment and Recovery) Bill 2013 is scheduled to return to Dáil Éireann at Second Stage today, Wednesday 25th September 2013.

IPRT has previously issued recommendations in relation to the earlier legislation (Fines Act 2010), and we broadly welcome the stated intention of the 2013 Bill – which is to reduce the number of people imprisoned for fine default.

Imprisonment for non-payment of court-ordered fines is damaging and wasteful, and must cease. There were 8,304 committals to prison for fines default in 2012 – including 1,687 female committals, putting great strain on the prison system, and at great cost to the taxpayer, families and communities. Over 85% of people imprisoned for fines default return to prison within 4 years, which further demonstrates how damaging and ineffective this practice is.

IPRT welcomes many provisions included in the Fines (Payment and Recovery) Bill 2013, including the requirement to take into account a person’s ability to pay a fine when setting the level of that fine.

However, to ensure the Bill meets its stated intention of bringing imprisonment for fines to an end - and given the increased financial pressure people are experiencing due to the recession and austerity measures - IPRT strongly recommends the following changes:

  1. The 2013 Bill provides that instalments must be paid over a period of 12 months, where the Fines Act 2010 had allowed greater flexibility with instalments over 24 months in some cases.IPRT recommends that the courts should be able to extend the period of instalments, in the interests of fairness and taking into account ability to pay, and that the approach taken in section 15 in the Fines Act 2010 (where instalments could be extended over 24 months) be retained in the current Bill.
  2. The 2013 Bill provides for an administration charge of up to 10% on persons paying a fine by instalments.
    In relation to larger fines we do not believe that a 10% charge can be justified in all cases. It may be preferable to set a flat administration fee or to cap the administration fee.
  3. The 2013 Bill provides that the instalment option will not apply to fines over the level of €100.
    IPRT believes that even €100 may be a significant amounts of money for families in the current economic climate, and we recommend that the limit (€100) below which a fine cannot be paid in instalments should be removed.

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