The government failed to make any significant impression on the £600m of outstanding debt from court fines during the latest financial year.
Helen Grant, justice minister, told parliament this month that outstanding impositions stood at £1.8bn at the end of April 2012. A Ministry of Justice (MoJ) spokeswoman confirmed that £600m of that figure was unpaid court fines – around the same figure disclosed by the Gazette in July 2011.
In a written statement, Grant stressed that Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) collected more than £484m from offenders during the year. But she also said there would be an overhaul of the payment system to make payment easier and improve financial information.
The MoJ will also press ahead with plans to bring in a commercial partner from the private sector to help with collection. The private sector’s involvement is likely to be opposed by the Public and Commercial Service Union, which represents around 2,300 court staff working in fine enforcement.
Grant said: ‘We are determined to take action which will ensure criminals are made to pay what they owe. We’ve done a good job of collecting the smaller fines – £484m last year – and we are not giving up on the larger debts which have been more difficult to recover.’
Three-quarters of the orders imposed in 2011/12 have been paid in full. Of the outstanding impositions, £1.2bn is made up of confiscation orders that have not been recovered. About one-third of this cannot be collected, said the MoJ: £141m relates to criminals who are deceased, deported or who cannot be located; £154m is classed as ‘hidden’ by the MoJ after financial investigations; and £278m is interest accrued on outstanding confiscation orders.