Hawke's Bay courts have collected more than three quarters of a million dollars in offender levies since the measure was introduced by the Ministry of Justice in June 2010, new figures show.
The Napier District and High Court raked in $330,700 in the past four financial years, the Hastings District Court brought in $375,090 and the Wairoa District Court collected $58,570. The offender levy requires all convicted offenders to pay $50 toward services for victims of serious crimes.
As of December 2014, $80,560 in offender levies was outstanding in Napier, $95,390 in Hastings and $8350 in Wairoa.
White Heart Victims Remembrance Trust founding chairman Simon Cowan, of Napier, said he supported the idea of a levy but was unsure of its true impact.
"I'm quite comfortable with the concept of it but I'm suspicious it's not going back to the actual victims," he said. "I think the first step should be giving the money back to the victims directly.
"Once that need is met, any money left over could go to crime-prevention and victim-support programmes."
A spokeswoman for Justice Minister Amy Adams said the levy was an important part of the Government's work programme to put victims at the heart of the criminal justice system through the funding of additional entitlements and services for victims of serious crime.
Mr Cowan set up the White Heart trust after the death of his son Phil, who disappeared in a suspected drug-world killing in 2001.
White Heart focused on increasing public awareness of the traumatic effect loss had on families through a national commemoration day for victims of crime.
Nationally, more than $16.5 million has been collected in offender levies in the past four financial years. Seventy-eight per cent of offender levies had been paid as of last December.
Factors such as reparation needing to be paid first and offenders being in jail contributed to the outstanding fees, the minister's spokeswoman said.
The Government last week said the levy helped ease some of the financial and emotional pressures victims suffered as a result of crime.
However Gil Elliott, father of murder victim Sophie Elliott, said the levy was a pretence, as the Government appeared to take a hard line on offenders. Also a Sensible Sentencing Trust spokesman, he said the levy was "supposed to punish offenders and be good for victims". However, he understood the offender levy was not being paid, and "the Government is pretending to be penalising offenders".
The ministry said it was not in a position to respond to allegations offenders were not paying levies.
Mr Elliott said levies should come from general taxation, because "there're definitely going to be people who won't pay it, despite what the Government says".
The levies contribute to services and grants through ACC and Victim Support, rather than the ministry providing money directly to victims.
A single levy is imposed at each sentencing, irrespective of the number of offences. Offender levies cannot be collected from prisoners but they would be required to pay on release.
Notice of the offender levy is posted at the door to all courtrooms around the country. The ministry said the money would be used to fund eight additional entitlements and services for victims of serious crime.
Amy Adams said the Government would continue to focus on developing a stronger response to family violence and strengthening efforts over the next three years to better support victims.