$100m has been lost in unpaid fines – but did taxpayers get community work work $100m in lieu?

January 8, 2015
And by the time we're done, we'll have a nice little cycle track running through here...

And by the time we’re done, we’ll have a nice little cycle track running through here…

Alf observes with some interest the practice of converting fines into community work.

The story is told today in the NZ Herald, which says:

District Court judges have converted almost $100 million worth of fines into community work in the past four years when offenders have been unable to pay what they owe, but the Ministry of Justice says it is committed to ensuring the punishment remains a “credible sanction”.

Figures released to the Herald under the Official Information Act show that between 2011 and 2014, 463,993 fines totalling $97,274,512 were converted to community work hours around New Zealand.

Those fines included court-imposed penalties and unpaid police and council infringement fees.

The number and total converted have steadily decreased over that time, going from 159,201 fines totalling $38,040,674 in 2011 to 66,863 totalling $11,575,106 in the first 10 months of 2014.

Fines are generally converted to community work only when all other enforcement options have been unsuccessful.

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Institutional racism is bad if it puts you behind bars but it’s good if it gets you into Parliament

October 13, 2014

The Maori Party is happy to go along with some forms of institutional racism.

"I keep this handy to deal with Winston Peters."

“I keep this handy to deal with Winston Peters.”

Indeed, it encourages them and will excoriate critics who suggest they be got rid of.

It all depends on the nature of the outcome and who are the beneficiaries.

Winston Peters spotted a few of the Maori Party’s favoured forms of racism early this year (and for his troubles was denounced by the Maori Party, the greenies and the lefties).

Mr Peters, speaking at Ratana Pa, says his party would never support “separatist” Maori Party policies such as having separate Maori units in prison, the separate Maori social welfare system Whanau Ora and the Tino Rangatiratanga Flag.

Mr Peters says he could not work with the Maori Party as long as it keeps “separatist” policies.

“You can’t have a Crown that’s composed of two different groups – the rest and Maori. Either we’re all together or we’re all going to be separate,” he says.

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A good idea from New York – young lawyers should earn their ticket by working for free for a while

May 7, 2012

Alf has been minded of our hefty legal-aid bill in recent times.

And its drain on the public purse.

His hackles were raised by news that the legal aid bill for David Bain’s retrial was $3.33m, the highest amount in legal history.

New Zealand’s legal history, presumably.

The Ministry of Justice said that the final figure for Bain’s defence was $3.33 million.

Of that amount, $2.33 million went towards the retrial costs and almost $1 million was paid for expenses in the retrial like research, investigators and forensics.

Lawyer’s fees throughout the High Court, Court of Appeal and retrial process amounted to $1.77 million of the total bill.

Bain’s lawyer, Michael Reed QC, told Radio NZ most of the costs of the retrial were to pay for overseas experts.

Bain is not receiving legal aid in his bid for compensation.

Then came a report saying New Zealand had spent a billion dollars on legal aid since 2000.

The five most expensive criminal legal aid grants were made in cases either discharged, or where the defendant was found to be innocent.

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It’s a fine old mess – $644m in uncollected penalties shows crime does pay

February 20, 2012

The Southland Times today reports on police arresting a bloke in Queenstown for driving while prohibited and for the non-payment of $8000 in fines.

The Manawatu Standard a week or so ago reported that Palmerston North criminals owe more than $13 million in court fines, and one offender is owing almost $100,000.

He hasn’t made a payment in almost five years.

Moreover (as of November 30) $2.5m is owed directly to victims of crime in the form of reparation.

In other words, offenders who are fined can just keep the money in their wallets and get off scot free.

And if they don’t have to pay for their crimes…?

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How much will it cost to collect seven cents? It doesn’t matter if your job is collecting fines

January 16, 2012

Alf is acutely aware of the need for fiscal austerity, to help Bill English bring the books back into the black over the next few years.

Otherwise he would ask the bureaucrats at our Ministry of Justice to put whatever time and effort is needed into explaining who was involved in recovering a certain sum of outstanding money and how much time they spent on the quest.

Obviously it costs money to chase someone for money.

You would think, therefore, that someone would weigh up the cost of the chasing against the revenue to be collected.

If the costs of the chasing are sure to exceed the revenue that will be gathered, well…

Let’s just flag it away.

But the bureaucratic mindset doesn’t tick quite like that.

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Oh, look – the judges are chewing up millions on travel and attending conferences

January 12, 2012

Nice work by Vernon Small at The Dom-Post today.

He has flushed out figures showing judges have clocked up more than $18 million on travel and accommodation over the past three years.

Among these were five overseas trips where Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias took her husband Hugh along at taxpayers’ expense.

Hugh who?

Oh, yes. Business tycoon Hugh Fletcher, who used to be chief executive of Fletcher Challenge and whose family’s wealth is reckoned to be $70 million, although Alf is always bemused about how the newspapers make that sort of calculation.

In thise case the reckoning was done by the National Business Review, which last year ranked the wider Fletcher family 53rd equal on its rich list.

Anyway, Hugh dutifully accompanied Dame Sian to the Caribbean Turks and Caicos islands in 2009-10 for a Commonwealth Magistrates Judges Association conference.

In the same year he accompanied her to the United States, London and Melbourne.

Perhaps she relies on him to keep her judges’ robes clean and ironed on these occasions, or some such.

So what are the rules about who pays for Hugh’s travels with his missus?

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Welcome Prince William – what a shame we don’t behead anti-royalist rabble nowadays

January 17, 2010

Unabashed royalists like Alf are chuffed that Prince William arrives in New Zealand today for a three-day visit.

He will be there, enthusiastically waving his Union Jack and wearing his tie with the Queen’s face emblazoned on it, when William touches down in Auckland just after 11am.

The prince’s first task will be to visit Eden Park to see redevelopment work and be briefed on plans for next year’s Rugby World Cup.

On Monday, he will attend a wreathlaying ceremony at the National War Memorial in Wellington.

But then – if it hasn’t happened already – the poor bugger will be exposed to the repugnant antics of some of our more odious citizens.

A bunch of protesters is intending to turn up when the prince opens the Supreme Court building in Wellington tomorrow.

Alf is ashamed to say some of our members of Parliament will be among the protesters.

He yearns for the good old days – a few centuries back – when your royals could have ordered the beheading of these rabble-rousing bastards.

In this case they are left-leaning trouble-makers, so their beheadings would lift the nation’s average IQ with two swings of an axe and do good things for the gene pool.

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So what’s to be done to judge in bias case?

November 30, 2009

There’s the whiff of something distinctly rotten wafting from our justice system.

Justice Minister Simon Power has hastened to attend to the source of some of the pong. But not all of it.

He is to ask Cabinet to agree to sweeping changes to our legal aid service

after revelations hundreds of crooked lawyers are ripping off taxpayers.

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A fine mess we’re getting into

April 25, 2009

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.
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Putting the squeeze on boy racers

February 9, 2009

A nice piece in The Press today reinforces Alf’s concerns that boy racers are being treated much too leniently by our justice system. He’s all in favour of having the buggers strapped into their cars, then sending the cars to the crusher.

His thinking on this is reinforced by The Press’ s revelation that –

Boy racers are swapping thousands of dollars of fines for community work, with some receiving generous conversion rates of up to $100 for every hour worked.

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