The announcement in The NZ Herald (17 January 2011) of the government’s recent initiative that people who don’t pay fines will go to prison, is another example of the government announcing changes to the law as “new law” when in actual fact very similar laws have been in existence for a lengthy period.
People with unpaid fines are appearing in Court in this country every week, facing the prospect of jail time if a satisfactory arrangement is not made to pay the fine.
Fortunately, unless it is the exceptional case, people don’t go to prison and either enter into an arrangement to pay the fine, or do community work instead. This is because Judges recognise that the reason why people receive fines in the first place is because they have committed a minor offence. Someone who has committed a minor offence shouldn’t go to prison.
Judges also recognise that the reason why a lot of people cannot pay a fine is because they simply don‘t have the means to do so at that time. Forcing an adult in the family to pay what they don’t have may well mean that the younger people in the family miss out on important essentials. Serving community work is a far better and positive way in which a person can pay for their (minor) offending.
It is good advice not to ignore fines. They don’t go away. If you can’t pay a fine, it is a good idea to be proactive and approach the Court. Sometimes people have the ability to enter into an arrangement to pay the fine off over time. Sometimes it is better to simply ask that you go before a Judge and ask to do community work in lieu of the fine. In that way you can get rid of the problem without having to pay what you don’t have.