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The Department of Justice and Law Reform released the following statement:

Mr. Dermot Ahern TD, Minister for Justice and Law Reform, said new legislation on fines is at the cutting edge of law reform.

President Mary McAleese has signed the Fines Bill 2009 into law. The Minister looks forward to commencing the legislation as soon as necessary arrangements have been made by the Courts Service to fully facilitate its operation.

Minister Ahern said: “The legislation provides for an innovative, balanced and more humane approach to the determination and collection of fines. Capacity to pay and equality of impact are at the heart of this legislation.

We must also ensure however, that those who clearly can pay fines but refuse to do so do not escape penalty. Ultimately, that means imprisonment, where alternative measures to secure payment fail. It is socially desirable that prison remain an option for fine defaulters in the most exceptional circumstances e.g. where a person has a malign reason for refusing to pay a fine.”

The Act provides for the indexation of fines so that, once again, fines imposed following conviction for offences will have the value they had when they were first introduced or were last updated.

The legislation addresses the issue of capacity to pay by requiring the court to examine the financial circumstances of the person before determining the amount of the fine. Also, the person on whom the fine has been imposed will be entitled to make an application to the court to pay by installments.        

The Act provides for alternatives to imprisonment in the event of default on payment of a fine. In these circumstances, a recovery order – made at the time the court imposed the fine – can be activated and a receiver will be entitled to recover the fine, or to seize and sell property belonging to the person and recover the fine from the proceeds. A community service order is also an option. Imprisonment in the event of default will be a last resort.