Sunday 22 October 2017

Convicted offenders may be allowed to 'work-off' their fine

Monday 20 March 2017

Convicted offenders may be allowed to 'work-off' their fine

Jersey's Probation Service is investigating plans to allow offenders to do community work to 'work off' their fine, so they aren't automatically sent to prison if they can't pay it.

They're concerned the current system means those on low-incomes are more likely to go to prison, if they can't afford to pay a fine, so the changes would give them another option.

In 2016, the Magistrate's Court was granted the ability to impose fines of up to £10,000 after a financial penalties review.

The Jersey Probation and Aftercare Service alongside the Law Officers’ Department and the States Department of Community and Constitutional Affairs are now investigating an alternative to prison or fines modelled on a Canadian work-based scheme.

Chief Probation Officer Brian Heath told Express: “While the Magistrates can increase the amount of time people have to pay, it would be awful if anyone did end up in custody because they were unable to pay.

“We’re now looking at the fine options scheme which operates in Canada and used to operate in Scotland. It shouldn’t be confused with community service scheme, but involves work in payment for the fine.”

Jersey’s version of the scheme could see offenders ‘work off’ their fines in a flexible 'pounds per hour' arrangement that would allow them to stop working if they felt they could pay the full sum at an earlier opportunity.  

“When a community service order is made… if they don’t turn up when they’re supposed to, if they commit a further offence, they don’t apply themselves, they’re taken back to court and custody. It’s a tight, swift neat scheme.

“With the fine option, typically people can opt in and out of it, so that if they get fed up of doing the work or if it reaches a level where they can pay the money, or their circumstances improve, they can opt to stop doing the work and pay the fine.”

Before it can be introduced, however, law officers will have to assess whether such an order could be made under existing legislation or whether fresh legislation would be needed to afford Magistrates the power to do so.

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