Legislation has been introduced which will allow driver licences to be suspended when people haven't made arrangements to pay overdue traffic fines.

It is a new penalty created in the Courts and Criminal Matters Bill, introduced yesterday, which Courts Minister Georgina te Heuheu says will strengthen enforcement measures generally.

One of its proposed amendments is to the Land Transport Act, allowing driver licence stop orders (DLSOs) to be issued against fine defaulters.

"Driver licence stop orders will be a new enforcement measure where a person fails to make payment arrangements for overdue traffic fines and reparation," the bill says.

"Eligible people will be sent a letter warning them that if they do not resolve their overdue traffic penalties within 14 days, their driver licences will be suspended."

The DLSOs will suspend all driver licences held by people in default, including limited licences, and will also prevent those people from obtaining a licence.

Licences will remain suspended until the overdue fines are resolved through payment or time-to-pay arrangements.

Vehicles will be impounded for 28 days if people drive in breach of a DLSO.

The Courts and Criminal Matters Bill strengthens collection measures for all fines, reparation payments and civil debt when people haven't continued to pay or haven't made payment arrangements.

As well as amending the Land Transport Act, it changes the Summary Proceedings Act, the Sentencing Act and the District Courts Act.

The main amendments to the Summary Proceedings Act are:

* Allowing the Ministry of Justice to release overdue penalty amounts to credit reporting agencies, and allowing those agencies to give the ministry credit applicant information, to assist with fines enforcement;

* Giving courts priority over secured creditors for seized property where the overdue penalties could have been discovered before finance was advanced to purchase that property, and these penalties are still overdue; and

* Allowing home detention or prison sentences to be substituted for unaffordable and unenforceable reparation orders.

The Sentencing Act is being changed to improve the operation of reparation and vehicle confiscation as penalty regimes.

The District Courts Act amendments are to improve the operation of the civil debt enforcement process by streamlining the most commonly used processes - Orders for Examination and Attachment Orders.

"This bill represents the most comprehensive set of legislative measures designed to strengthen the recovery of unpaid monies in 12 years," Mrs te Heuheu said.

"It is critical to the credibility of the justice system that monetary penalties are viewed as a credible sanction."

She said it demonstrated the Government's determination to address the high level of unpaid fines, and had taken more than two years to develop.

- NZPA