Leader: Justice must still be seen to be done
JUSTICE means, at the very least, that the guilty should be punished. That is the mark of wider society’s repugnance at the offence committed and it gives some satisfaction to the victims of crime.
But none of these aims is being achieved with more and more offences where the perpetrator has been detected and has agreed to pay a fiscal fine.
In 2008, procurators-fiscal became able to offer fines of up to £300 and compensation orders up to £500 to people accused of relatively minor offences.
These fiscal fines meant that accused people who accepted them did not need to go to court, relieving the courts of a burden and, presumably, resulting in a significant saving to the taxpayer.
The use of these fines in Scotland is growing, up by nearly a third last year. But of the total of £14.6 million in fines levied in the past three years, £7.6m, or nearly half, is unpaid.
And rising numbers of offenders seem to be learning that they can thumb their noses at fiscal fines – about half of such offenders in the first three months of this year have yet to make any payment.
The Scottish Government says that it is employing more fines enforcement officers to deal with the problem and is looking at other measures. It needs to, for a justice system which cannot enforce the penalties it imposes on criminals is simply no justice system at all.
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Tuesday 18 June 2013
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