Boy racers dodging millions in fines

Close to $90 million in fines were remitted by the courts last year, with boy racers among the main beneficiaries.

In Waikato, $6.1m was remitted, with about half of that - $3.1m - simply wiped off, with no alternative punishment imposed. About $2.4m was converted to community work, while the rest was made up of community detention, home detention and jail.

About two-thirds of fines remitted - $60m nationally and $4.7m in Waikato - were police infringements for offences such as speeding, driving a pink-stickered vehicle or performing wheel spins.

The figures, released under the Official Information Act, show the total remitted in Waikato is up 50 per cent from $4m in 2009.

The numbers have angered Police Association boss Greg O'Connor, who says the remittals are frustrating the efforts of police to curb boy-racer behaviour.

"I don't think judges realise it - it makes a bit of a joke of the system.

"These judges deliver stern warnings from the bench, but the next thing they're remitting fines. It's not all judges, just a few."

Mr O'Connor said it was common knowledge in the boy-racer community that if you continually built up tickets, and didn't worry about them, eventually they'd get them replaced with some community work.

One boy racer had about $18,000 in fines wiped in return for 180 hours' community service, which equates to a rate of $100 an hour.

"It's not the Average Joe who has got a fine that's going to get it remitted . . . they'll be chased like hell to pay it," Mr O'Connor said. "It's the ones that thumb their nose and build up fines that'll have them remitted."

He believed seizing offenders' vehicles or property would be a much better option.

Sensible Sentencing Trust Waikato spokeswoman Paula Steffert said remitting fines sent the message that there were no consequences for people's actions.

"If I get a speeding fine, I have to pay it," she said. " It seems that it's just too easy for these people to get them remitted. I mean $6 million in the Waikato alone is phenomenal - that's ridiculous."

If the offender was in no position to pay a fine in the first place, the judge should give them an alternative sentence instead of letting the fines build up and then later wiping them, she said.

But Courts Minister Chester Borrows said anyone who thought getting a fine remitted was an "easy out" was "very mistaken".

"People who cannot pay their fines do not get off the hook - they go to jail or do community work in lieu of those fines," he said.

He said the message was getting through and over the past five years the amount of overdue fines had fallen from 58 per cent to 43 per cent and just under $2m of Waikato remissions were collection fees.

Total reparation and fines owed had also dropped from $800m in 2008/09 to $575m.

Ministry of Justice deputy secretary of legal and operational services Nigel Fyfe said remittals were generally considered only when they'd been unable to collect fines, or further enforcement action was unlikely to be successful.

"Usually this will be because the person who is subject to fines enforcement has insufficient funds or income."

It could also include when a person has died, or in the case of an organisation, gone into liquidation.

Enforcement action used to try to get fines paid included clamping vehicles, seizing and selling property, compulsory deductions from bank accounts or preventing overseas travel.

Waikato Times