CRIMINAL ENFORCEMENT PRIVATISATION.....sounds boring but it could affect you!
Some people can get into financial difficulties when a fine is imposed on them.....it can tip them over the edge financially and they end up getting further and further into debt. There are numbers of vulnerable people who find themselves in this dark tunnel with little or no means of escape.
More and more offences are dealt with by a fixed penalty notice which must be paid within 21 days or it is increased by 50% and registered with a court for enforcement. When a court fines someone they try to ascertain their income and may allow the fine to be paid in instalments. However, the fixed penalty scheme does not allow this form of payment (the fine has to be paid in full in the allotted time) causing great difficulty to a large group of people with little or no income.
The Government plan to privatise the collection and enforcement of the fines, costs and compensation. The Crime and Courts Bill which is in the Lords at present allows the costs of collecting fines to be added to the fine. At present many of these fines are collected by Court staff but the Bill will mean that private bailiffs and debt collection agencies are given the responsibility for collecting fines.
Many are not regulated by anyone and in lots of cases charge disproportionate fees for the collection of fixed penalty fines. The practices used by private bailiffs and debt collection agencies have been the subject of much media exposure during the last few months. Our concern is that if this bill is not defeated or is passed in its current form and private debt collectors replace court staff for the collecting and enforcing fines, costs and compensations then more and more people will be pushed into serious debt.
If you are struggling with debt issues why not come and talk to us at Citizens Advice. You don't have to be stuck in this dark tunnel of spiralling financial problems. We may be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.