Fines collection bouncing back from Covid
The fine collection rate is continuing to recover, the latest Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service quarterly fines report shows.
The three-year collection rates for all fine/penalty types show improvement for both value and number when the figures as at 18 January 2022 are compared with 18 October 2021 with the exception of Sheriff Court fines value rates which have been maintained at last quarter’s level. The three-year rate for Sheriff Court fines by value paid or on track to be paid in the latest quarter, remains strong at 88 per cent.
Figures on the Victim Surcharge show that collection has risen by £100,000 over the last quarter and stands at £354,811 for fines imposed to the end of September 2021, up from £254,000. The £354,811 paid amounts to 78 per cent of the value of these penalties. The Victim Surcharge penalty was introduced by the Scottish government at the end of 2019 on fines relating to offences committed on or after 25 November 2019.
The overall fines collection performance reflects continuing and targeted action by Fines Enforcement Officers. However, SCTS has recognised that individuals face the very real risk of suffering significant financial hardship during the Coronavirus crisis and has focussed on fines collection measures that also enable officers to provide information, advice and support to customers who are struggling to maintain their payments. An online form has been introduced to simplify the process for customers to seek information and advice.
Liability to pay fines remains, however, and failure to engage with fines officers will result in enforcement action being taken. Customers can pay easily using our 24/7 online and telephone payment channels.
SCTS executive director of court operations David Fraser said: “These figures show reassuring progress in recovery from the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic with continuing rises recorded in the new report.
“We recognise the impact that Coronavirus can have on fines payers however, and we are maintaining additional support, with information and advice, to take account of that. The strong rates over time, evident in this report, show that our processes and systems are maintaining efficient collection.
“We will employ robust sanctions against offenders who we are satisfied have failed to pay without reasonable excuse. The message to fines customers remains clear – continue to pay your fines or seek advice if you are struggling. Doing nothing is not an option.”
Fines Enforcement Units have a number of measures available to pursue non-payers. These include freezing bank accounts, arresting earnings, deducting from benefits, clamping vehicles or obtaining arrest warrants. In all cases, offenders have opportunities to make payment of their fines at a reasonable and affordable instalment rate. All defaulters are issued with warnings before action is taken. Those in genuine financial difficulty can engage with enforcement officers to discuss payment terms.