Texts warn offenders to pay fines

BBC | December 30 2005

Text messages saying 'pay up or get locked up' could soon be used in England and Wales to get offenders to settle unpaid court fines.
The scheme could be introduced nationally following a successful pilot project in Staffordshire.

Some 150 texts were sent, with three quarters of recipients then paying up.

Texts, emails and phonecalls are likely to be used more as part of a new national service to help the government in its bid to increase payment levels.

BBC home affairs correspondent Rory Maclean said two years ago just over 50% of court-imposed fines were being paid, a figure which had since increased to around 82%.

Figures for last November showed £390m of fines remained unpaid in England and Wales.

A new National Enforcement Service (NES) - announced earlier this year - will be piloted for a year from April in north-west England, before being extended to other parts of the UK.

Some 4,000 NES enforcement officers will be given new powers to search and arrest the "hardcore" of people who refuse to pay court fines.

The service will also crack down on those who skip bail and fail to turn up at court, said the Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA).

In January the DCA announced plans to dock pay and benefits, or clamp the cars, of those who refused to pay court fines.