Tuesday, 21 February 2012
Department of Justice, Equality and Defence
John Lyons (Dublin North West, Labour)
Question 550: To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will consider a system to allow for payment of court fines in instalments; if his attention has been drawn to any impediments to implementing such a payment option; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9830/12]
Alan Shatter (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Defence; Dublin South, Fine Gael)
As I have previously advised the House, the Fines Act 2010 is being commenced on a phased basis. Section 14, which placed an obligation on a court to assess a person’s capacity to pay, was among the first sections of the legislation commenced in January of this year. The remainder of the Act will be commenced as soon as the necessary arrangements have been put in place by the Courts Service to fully facilitate its operation. Implementation work is continuing on section 15 which provides for the payment of fines by instalment. There are a number of practical and technical issues required to facilitate the commencement of this section.
As the Deputy will appreciate, the current system of payment allows only for a single payment in respect of each fine to be made within a specified period. This payment is recorded on the Courts Service IT system. In order to allow for a fine to be paid in instalments over a year or in certain circumstances longer as the Act provides, it is necessary for the system to be substantially modified to allow for payment by instalment and to ensure that such instalments can be accurately tracked and recorded. The cost of the modifications required for the instalment provisions, which will take approximately 12 months to complete, is estimated at €600,000.
My Department is currently examining a number of proposed amendments to the 2010 Act which may be necessary to address some practical issues in terms of implementation. In addition, a detailed project is currently underway to streamline, insofar as possible, the processes involved, thus reducing the complexity and variety of the IT changes required to implement section 15 and the costs involved.