Ulster Unionist Justice spokesperson Tom Elliott has questioned the commitment of Justice Minister David Ford to resolve the enforcement of fines in Northern Ireland.
The Fermanagh & South Tyrone MLA said:
“While the Minister is acknowledging the outcome of the Criminal Justice Inspection report that a more robust and effective enforcement process is required, he has put forward no credible resolution to deal with the issue.’
“This is not a new problem with the matter being highlighted in a report published in March 2010. The figures contained within that report shows that the number of people going to prison for the non-payment of fines in a two year period have increased by 76%.”
Mr Elliott continued: “It appears that many are opting for the prison sentence as they feel it is a soft option and this should not be the case. If someone goes to prison it should be an experience that acts as a deterrent from wanting to take that option in the future.
“I recently received figures from the Department of Justice which showed that there are currently almost £8 million in outstanding fines. With this substantial figure it requires immediate action by the Minister to ensure that many more of those who are subject to these fines do not take what they determine as the easy option of prison.”