Convicted criminals owe over £2m in court fines in Tyrone and Fermanagh

Million have gone unpaid in court fines
Million have gone unpaid in court fines

Over £2 million in fines and penalties has gone unpaid by offenders in the Fermanagh and Tyrone Court Division, according to the Department of Justice.

In all £2,175,000 remained outstanding to courts in this region after convicted criminals have failed to pay their monetary fines up to September 30th this year.

The local court office in Dungannon had pending fines of over £621,000 will the Omagh office was missing almost £741,000 in unpaid fines.

Strabane and Enniskillen had outstanding fines amounting to £406,000 each.

The figures were disclosed following a question to the department by Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA, Lord Morrow.

He said: "Almost two years ago, the Public Accounts Committee announced there was the extortionate total of £19 million in unpaid fines. Of this, some £6.5 million was effectively written-off as unrecoverable.

"Within the PAC report’s for the year ended March 2013 the executive summary noted; ‘It is vital that the justice system sends out the right message and it is essential therefore that NI Courts & Tribunal Service (NICTS) makes every effort to fully recover financial penalties.’

"Criticism was levelled at the Department of Justice for failing to co-ordinate a joined up approach which had contributed to 6682 paper warrants to a value of £1.1 million ‘going missing’ and significant suspicion of fraud.

"Yet we are back with a figure of close to £20 million in unpaid fines across the court system, of which well over £2 million is attributed to the Fermanagh & Tyrone area.

"Omagh is coming in at the highest on £740,642, followed by Dungannon on £621,055. Enniskillen and Strabane are roughly neck and neck on £406,628 and £406,374 respectively.

"Couple that with the fact the majority of cases in which fines were imposed were legally aided, and recalls to court under fine default proceedings, affords a further round of Legal Aid to be expended for representation to try to persuade defaulters to pay up.

"The law-abiding public will be rightly outraged at these statistics and the liberally funded softly, softly approach to have defaulters face up to their responsibilities. It is making a mockery out of judicial process."

In total in Northern Ireland there have been just under £20 million in unpaid fines to the seven court divisions.

Belfast was worst off with £6.4 million in unpaid fines and penalties while Fermanagh and Tyrone, Antrim, Ards, Armagh and Londonderry all had over £2 million missing because of non-payment of fines.