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Money owed by offenders to courts in England and Wales tops 1 BILLION for the first time 

Money owed by offenders to courts in England and Wales tops 1 BILLION for the first time

  • Unpaid charges by offenders rose to £1.01billion in the year to the end of March
  • Ministry of Justice being forced to make crippling cuts due to austerity measures
  • MPs and unions said the cash could help ease the crisis engulfing country’s jails

Money owed by offenders in England and Wales has soared past £1billion for the first time.

Huge sums imposed by courts on criminals in fines and fees have never been paid. But at the same time the cash-strapped Ministry of Justice is being forced to make crippling cuts as part of austerity measures.

MPs, prison governors and unions have said the cash could help ease the crisis engulfing the country’s jails, where violence, self-harm and drugs are hitting record levels.

Money owed by offenders in England and Wales has soared past £1billion – and is expected to reach £1.05billion by June (file photo)

Critics said offenders were ‘laughing in the face of the courts’ by failing to pay their debts.

Unpaid charges rose to £1.01billion in the year to the end of March, and they are predicted to hit £1.05billion by June. Some of the money will be compensation that criminals were ordered to pay their victims.

It means that thousands of criminals are getting away without completing part of their punishment – a double whammy for victims.

But the MoJ insisted it had also collected a record £460million last year – up from £283million in 2011. Liberal Democrat justice spokesman Sir Ed Davey said: ‘When offenders owe £1billion in court fines and compensation, you have to ask whether the system is working properly.

Liberal Democrat justice spokesman Sir Ed Davey said ministers should ensure there is 'greater use of restorative justice'

Liberal Democrat justice spokesman Sir Ed Davey said ministers should ensure there is ‘greater use of restorative justice’

‘Instead of slapping people with fines that they may never be able to pay, ministers should ensure there is greater use of restorative justice and community sentences.’

David Spencer, research director at the Centre For Crime Prevention think-tank, said: ‘It is obvious from this data that offenders are laughing in the face of courts as they are handed fines and many have absolutely no intention of paying.

‘But that is hardly a surprise when there are few serious consequences for not paying up.’

HM Courts & Tribunals Service said: ‘We take the recovery and enforcement of court fines extremely seriously and our performance is improving.’

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