Thousands of criminals in England and Wales owe £1.2billion in unpaid fees and fines as critics accuse offenders of ‘laughing in the face of the courts’
- Money owed by criminals in England and Wales soared to a record £1.2billion
- Total amount imposed by courts has more than doubled in the last five years
- It means thousands of offenders are escaping part of their punishment
- Critics demanded tougher sentencing rules for ‘laughing’ criminals
Money owed by criminals in England and Wales has soared to a record £1.2billion, figures have revealed.
The total amount owed in unpaid fines and fees, which are imposed by the courts, has more than doubled in five years, meaning thousands of offenders are escaping part of their punishment.
In June last year, a staggering £1.16billion was outstanding, up from £557million in 2014. A chunk of this will be compensation for victims.
Experts said the money could have been injected into the cash-strapped Ministry of Justice or helped tackle the crisis in the UK’s prisons.
Pictured: Wing in Bush House inside Maghaberry prison near Lisburn, County Antrim
Last night critics said offenders were ‘laughing in the face of the courts’ by failing to pay debts.
David Spencer, of the Centre For Crime Prevention think-tank, said: ‘It is ludicrous so many criminals are able to escape justice in this way.
‘Sentencing guidelines should be changed to ensure failure to pay a fine results in subsequent action being taken.’
But the MoJ insisted it collected £423million in 2018 – the last full-year figures available – up 40 per cent on the amount taken in 2014.
This was still down on the £461million collected in 2017.
It said the rise in debt is largely due to fines, which accounted for £375million of the money demanded by judges in 2018.
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