People jailed for not paying fines in NI up 76%

There has been a 76% increase in the number of people going to prison in Northern Ireland for non-payment of court ordered fines in the two years since a report called for the practice to be reduced.

The Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJINI) called for an end to the "inappropriate and expensive use of police and prison resources" for non-payment of fines in March 2010 in a report that made 10 recommendations for improvement. Of those 10 changes, 2 were not implemented and 5 were only partially introduced. There were 2,179 people sent to prison for failing to pay fines last year, compared to 1,237 in 2009.

Justice Minister David Ford acknowledged that more progress was required, and that "a new approach to deal with fine defaulters" was required. He spoke of plans to use a civilian enforcement system that would include a number of methods of dealing with people defaulting on fines, such as taking the money directly from their income.

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