Offenders take jail over fines

Wanganui offenders had over $500,000 in outstanding fines wiped last year by the courts, Ministry of Justice figures reveal.

The largest amount of fines wiped from a single Wanganui offender since 2010 was $47,400 - for outstanding vehicle-related and traffic offences.

The fines were replaced with imprisonment.

Wanganui criminal lawyer Stephen Ross said most of the fines wiped were traffic fines.

"There are obviously some serial offenders who get some substantial amounts."

Most fines were dealt with in the Fines Court, and lawyers only became involved when they had accumulated past a certain point, Mr Ross said.

The figures show that the number of offenders whose fines have been wiped have jumped from 324 in 2010 to 479 last year. However the amount wiped has more than halved during that time - to $584,054 in 2012.

More than $91 million in outstanding fines was wiped for more than 83,000 offenders nationwide last year, and sentences replaced with imprisonment, community sentences, or wiped completely because of death and company liquidations.

Figures released under the Official Information Act show $575.91 million was owing in outstanding fines and reparation at the start of this year.

The highest remittal since 2010 was in Christchurch where one offender had $294,491 remitted for breaching the Tax Administration Act and a vehicle offence.

Remitting fines was generally at a judge's discretion when attempts to enforce fines or reparation had failed. Enforcement action over unpaid fines could include clamping vehicles, seizing and selling property, making compulsory deductions from a person's income or bank account, issuing arrest warrants and preventing international travel.

Ministry of Justice spokesman Nigel Fyfe said that just under $250 million in fines and reparation was collected every year on behalf of victims, local authorities and agencies like police.


- Wanganui Chronicle

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