New law aims to prevent imprisonment over fines

Justice Minister Dermot Ahern has published new laws aimed at helping people to avoid prison for failure to pay fines.

The Fines Bill 2009 will allow people to pay fines in instalments.

Courts will also be able to take account of someone's ability to pay and impose community service as a penalty for non-payment instead of a prison sentence.

"The additional powers being given to the courts, where a person is in default of payment of a fine, are in line with Government commitment," said Ahern.

"I want to reduce, as far as possible, a dependence on imprisonment for default on payment of fines. I must emphasise that while very few persons are in prison at any one time solely for non-payment of a fine, I am determined through this legislation to further reduce those numbers.

"We are also introducing instalment payments for offenders. This will allow the courts, on application, to grant the facility of payment of a fine by instalments where the financial circumstances of the offender warrant it.

"This will further ease the impact of fines on persons of modest means by making payment easier without compromising the integrity of the fines system."

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