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New rules target fine dodgers

KAT DUGGAN
Last updated 12:32 24/02/2014

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It is hoped an initiative introduced this week targeting fine dodgers will bring down the amount of unpaid fines in Marlborough.

As at December 31 last year, there was more than $6 million in fines owing in the region, more than double the value of fines issued by the Blenheim District Court last year. Forty per cent of those fines were overdue.

Driver Licence Stop Orders were introduced nationwide last Monday, allowing the Ministry of Justice to seize the licences of "fine dodgers".

Courts Minister Chester Borrows said the orders could be imposed on anybody who failed to pay a traffic-related fine imposed by a court, police, or local government authority. They could also be issued to those who had not paid court-ordered reparation for victims of a traffic-related offence.

Orders would first be imposed on people with large amounts owing, starting with 14 days' notice to either pay fines or set up a payment plan, followed by a second reminder. If the person continued to be non-compliant a bailiff would seize their driver licence until the fine was paid in full, or payment arrangements had been made.

"The aim is to get people who've been ignoring the authority of law to take things seriously, and to pay their traffic-related fines," Mr Borrows said.

Traffic fines made up about three-quarters of fines, and Mr Borrows hoped the orders would continue the downward trend of fines owed across the country.

"The amount of fines owed at the Blenheim court is falling steadily. Nationally this has fallen from almost $800 million in 2009 to around $550 million now, a drop of over 30 per cent," he said.

The decline has come as a result of sanctions allowing the ministry to seize property, stop people from travelling overseas or making credit purchases and by directly deducting funds from people's wages.

"The new [orders] are just one of the new tools Court Collections use to chase those who don't pay their fines, or put them under arrangement if they can't afford to pay the full fine," Mr Borrows said.

If a fine-dodger was caught driving while their licence was suspended, the vehicle would be seized for 28 days, he said. 

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- The Marlborough Express

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