A fine mess we’re getting into

Looks like Mickey Mouse has been put in charge of the Ministry of Justice.

A ministry document, Structure of Operations in the Ministry, Proposals for Consultation, says the fine collections team should sort out those who owe fines based on their “willingness and ability to pay and their attitude towards compliance”, then focus enforcement where it is most effective.

In other words, the ministry’s fine-gathering minions should concentrate on those most likely to pay rather than hounding hard-core fine defaulters.

The slack buggers in Justice say collecting debts from defaulters who never pay their fines is expensive and it is too hard to recover the money.

Good grief. Tell that to private-sector debt-collecting companies.

A ministry report says proposals are under way to “focus enforcement effort where it is most effective and to avoid expensive enforcement actions which drive up the overall cost of collection without necessarily resolving the debt”.

The Government budgeted $66 million to collect fines for the next year-more than a quarter of the value of fines collected.

New Zealanders owe $790 million in fines, of which $448m is overdue. Much of the fines came from traffic offences.

Labour MP Rick Barker, the former courts minister, says the fines system relies on treating everyone equally.

“Public confidence in the system is dependent upon the clear perception that everyone who is fined will be pursued vigorously and assiduously,” he said.

“The moment they compromise on that principle it will seriously compromise public confidence in the system.”

It grieves Alf deeply to say Barker might be right, but in this case, too damned right he’s right.

A ministry spokesman ā€“ sure enough ā€“ tried the old reassuring trick of saying the proposals were still being developed and aimed to make it easier for those who voluntarily paid their fines.

“For people who don’t meet their obligations voluntarily we are then able to better target our enforcement activities.”

And Collections general manager Bryre Patchell is reported as saying the proposal aimed to find the most efficient ways to collect fines and reparation.

“We will continue to encourage people to voluntarily pay their fines. We will target our resources to those fines and reparation cases where that person needs assistance or an enforcement action such as the seizure of property in order to comply.”

He did not say whether Collections was giving up on people who were “too hard”, or whether it aimed to reduce the amount of money spent collecting fines, but said courts would have increased powers to collect fines.

But obviously the law becomes an elephant-sized ass if legislation can not be policed and offenders can plead poverty or simply dodge the fine collectors and go unpunished.

3 Responses to A fine mess we’re getting into

  1. Pique Oil says:

    Alf a slight correction if I may.
    The Law is an ass already and all this is doing is formalising it.
    Success in contractual law is dependent on pocket depth and has zilch to do with justice. It seems that all this does is bring the rest of Law into alignment.
    If you give in easy it costs, if you dig your toes in they go away.
    Structure your affairs so that you have no assets and you are untouchable.
    The law ceased being senxible many many years ago.

  2. Pique Oil says:

    Finger size and blurry eyes mean senxible instead of sensible.
    Perhaps having just made an ass of myself I should become a lawyer?

  3. Alf Grumble says:

    And a fine lawyer you would be too. You might even become a judge. Then you would have the power to be sentenxing people to long terms in the cooler.

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