Anger as offenders’ unpaid fines run into millions


General View of Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Chambers StreetMILLIONS of pounds in fines handed down to Scottish offenders so they don’t have to appear in court are going unpaid.

Figures on fiscal fines, published by the Scottish Courts Service (SCS), have been branded “an insult to victims” by opposition politicians.

The figures, revealed in a freedom of information request, also show more than 10% of sheriff court fines are going unpaid.

The SCS has been responsible for fines enforcement since 2009, and the Scottish Government has said a new enforcement regime introduced in

2008 would tackle those who dodge paying their fines.

Fiscal fines have become popular in recent years to swiftly deliver justice on crimes such as shoplifting and breaches of the peace, as well as reducing burdens on the courts.



The SCS figures show between July 2011 and June 2012, the total number of fiscal fines, justice of the peace court fines and police fixed penalties for antisocial behaviour was £14 million.

Of this, £4.5 million, 31% of the figure, was in arrears.

In 2009/10, £12.4 million in sheriff court fines were issued, with £1.3 million in arrears, 10.7%.

In 2011/12, £14.8 million were issued, with arrears of £2 million 13.4%.

Over the same period, antisocial behaviour penalties issued by police rose from £2 million to £2.6 million, with arrears rising from £600,000 to £1.1 million.

In 2011/12, 98,000 crimes were solved by police, but the perpetrators were handed fines instead of appearing in court.

But by July 2012, more than 36,000 of these had not been paid.

Glasgow-based solicitor George McClay, who obtained the figures in a freedom of information request, said they seemed to show little progress had been made.



He said: “It looks as if those caught are treating the fixed penalty system with utter contempt.”

Lewis MacDonald, Scottish Labour’s justice spokesman, said: “The revelation that thousands of discharged fiscal direct penalties are simply abandoned will come as a shock to the Scottish public.”

John Lamont, Scottish Conservative chief whip, said: “This is an insult to victims, and will do nothing to make those contemplating a life of crime reconsider.”

The revelations coincide with claims some offenders are being handed dozens of fines they cannot afford to pay.

In a recent case, a judge Glasgow’s district court quashed around £3,000 in fines a female offender had been given for shoplifting, minor assault and breaches of the peace.



A spokesman for the SCS said all outstanding figures were pursued using “a range of robust measures.”

He added more than £1 million had been recovered int he past six months through benefit deductions, enforcement orders and earnings arrestment orders, which stop wages being paid.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Fine collection is a matter for the SCS and it is working hard to enforce fines.

“Since it took over responsibility, collection rates have improved and are now at their highest ever recorded level.

“SCS pursues all outstanding fines robustly, which gives a clear message to defaulters that there is no place to hide.”