When the courts order an offender to pay a victim reparation, it would be easy to assume the money soon follows. However, Tauranga has more than $20 million worth of outstanding payments. Kiri Gillespie talks to a local employer who continues to wait for his.
Bay businessman Pravin Ranchhod has been waiting years for full reparation.
The 100% Appliance Waihī owner is among countless victims of crime owed reparation payments through the New Zealand justice system.
Ministry of Justice figures obtained by the Bay of Plenty Times reveal during the 2018-2019 financial year, $20.7 million of Tauranga court-ordered reparation payments remain outstanding. Of this, $8.3m of payments were overdue. Another $73,826 were remitted.
Ranchhod said he'd like to see a better system but the ministry said collecting reparation and paying it to victims was a priority for the court.
In November 2017, 100% Appliance shop assistant Blair McMillan was sentenced to 150 hours' community work and ordered to pay $1162.49 reparation to Ranchhod after being convicted of theft.
"He's paying it. Eventually, we will get it. It does take time," Ranchhod said.
"But we are getting reparation for another one... We might get $10 a time. It's not the best situation. It's a bit of a joke."
In the past 12 months, Ranchhod received a total of $81 from three payments from that person.
"It's better than nothing, I suppose. It's not really acceptable but what are you going to do about it?"
Car crashes into Welcome Bay property after police pursuit
Man sentenced for punching teacher in head outside school
Ranchhod said he would like to see better enforcement of regular payments.
Nationally, more than $589m in reparation was outstanding, of which $259.7m was deemed by the courts to be overdue.
Reparation is often used as a penalty sentence ordered by court judges in convictions of theft.
Retail New Zealand chief executive Greg Harford stores lost about $1 billion worth of stock to retail crime each year, despite spending millions of dollars across the sector trying to prevent it.
"Ultimately, this drives up the cost of goods, meaning that the costs of crime are borne by law-abiding New Zealanders," he said.
However, Harford said a key issue was there were often few consequences for those who stole and it was not especially common for retailers to receive reparation payments.
"When they are ordered by the courts, they tend to be for very small amounts of money over a very long time, and often offenders do not keep the payments up," he said.
"This effectively means that there is no consequence for the offender, and it does not provide recompense for the business owner who is left out of pocket."
Retail NZ has been calling for a change to this, proposing the Government introduce an infringement notice fine for the first two offences, "whereby the police could issue a ticket to those who steal - like a traffic ticket".
"This would ensure that there are immediate and real consequences for thieves and would act as a deterrent to those contemplating petty crime."
We might get $10 a time. It's not the best situation. It's a bit of a joke.
The Ministry of Justice figures also showed the highest amount of reparation owed by a single offender sentenced in Tauranga District Court was $423,458 imposed on March 11 last year.
The ministry would not comment on the details of that case but national service delivery group manager Brett Dooley said collecting reparation and paying it to victims was a priority for the court.
"Any payment made to the court by an offender is allocated first to reparation before any fines, court costs or offender levies that may be owing," he said.
"If the offender does not make payment within 28 days of an order being made, or does not comply with a payment arrangement set at the time of sentencing, the court can take enforcement action in the same way as for non-paid fines.
"This can include taking money from wages or benefits, taking property and selling it or arresting them."
If an offender has older reparation owing, this must be paid first. Alternatively, if reparation for multiple victims is ordered on the same day, any payment the offender makes is split between them.
Once payments have been received by the court and have cleared, they are forwarded to the victim.
- Additional reporting Zoe Hunter