A welcome first step

IT is hard to think of another modest reform that has had such a positive impact. By not sending offenders to prison for not paying fines, the number of people jailed was cut by almost 40% last year. This is a spectacular improvement in the administration of justice and has reduced the pressure on a strained prison system. Provisional figures show there were 9,332 committals in 2017, compared to 15,099 in 2016, a drop of 38%. Figures are down 46% when compared to 2015, when there were 17,206 committals.

It also goes some way towards restoring the integrity of a system that had fallen to somewhere pretty close to a

rotating-door circus because those who refused to pay fines often spent no more than hours in custody. Offenders were hardly sanctioned, and the system was derided.

These figures, welcome as they are, can only be the first step towards a satisfactory resolution of the issue. A complete welcome must be deferred until it is established that all of the fines imposed have been, one way or another, collected or else the joke is on us. Again.

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