Thousands mistakenly asked to pay fines

SAM SACHDEVA
Last updated 15:51 07/01/2013
aaron keown
MISTAKE: Christchurch City Councillor Aaron Keown.

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Thousands of Kiwis have been mistakenly asked to pay fines they do not owe, following a mix-up with the Ministry of Justice's collections database.

A Christchurch City councillor was among nearly 30,000 people to receive a text message this morning, telling them to contact the ministry's 0800 4 FINES number to pay an outstanding fine.

Cr Aaron Keown, who received the text, said the message had startled him as he did not have any fines owing.

"I thought, 'Oh s***, what's gone wrong now?'"

Ministry of Justice legal and operational services deputy secretary Nigel Fyfe said about 29,600 people in the ministry's collections database had received the message.

Fyfe said "human error" meant that some people who had already paid their fines were mistakenly sent the text message.

The extra phone traffic caused by the texts meant the ministry's 0800 number had experienced delays of up to 20 minutes.

Fyfe said the ministry had since sent a follow-up text to all those who received the original message, apologising and telling those who had already paid their fines to ignore the text.

The ministry had looked at how the mistake was able to happen, and made changes to ensure it would not happen again, he said.

People who did have outstanding fines needed to contact the ministry in the next few days, he said.

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