The Ministry of Justice has collected $4.6 million in just four months from people who risked being banned from driving under a tough new enforcement tool for overdue fines, Courts Minister Chester Borrows says.
Driver Licence Stop Orders (DLSOs) can be placed on anyone who fails to pay traffic-related fines imposed by a Court, Police or local government authority – or reparations imposed by a Court for traffic-related offences.
Since DLSOs were launched on 17 February, the Ministry of Justice has issued 87 warning letters, and served only one DLSO – and that was subsequently lifted after the person set up arrangements to repay their fines.
“This initiative was designed to send a compelling message to offenders who’ve racked up overdue traffic debts,” says Mr Borrows.
“It seems the threat of losing their driver licence has motivated many of those with fines owing who have, until now, ignored their obligation to pay up or enter an arrangement to pay the debt off over time.”
DLSOs target the most difficult to reach people – a hard core of around 25,000 drivers who each owed fines and reparation totalling more than $2,000, and had ignored repeated reminders to pay it off.
Of that group, over 10,800 have contacted the Ministry of Justice in the past three months, to make repayments totalling $4.6 million.
“The fact we’ve recovered $4.6 million from a stubborn group, who had ignored all previous reminders about their obligations, without having to take anyone’s licence away shows how effective the DLSO sanction is.”
While those with the largest outstanding fines have been targeted first, the Ministry of Justice will step up the issuing of DLSO warning letters over the next six months to others.
“We are focussing on the worst offenders first, but the message is clear. If you have an outstanding fine we will catch up with you,” says Mr Borrows.
“Anyone with an overdue fine should seize this opportunity to contact the Ministry of Justice and make a payment arrangement if they wish to hold on to their licence.”
The Government is committed to ensuring that fines remain a credible sanction.
The Courts and Criminal Matters Bill, passed by Parliament in July 2011, gave the Ministry of Justice wider powers to collect fines – including the ability to issue Driver Licence Stop Orders (DLSOs).
DLSO’s help send the message that ignoring fines is not an acceptable, or sensible, option.
DLSOs are initiated with a warning letter giving people 14 days’ notice to either pay up or set up a payment plan. Those notified will get one more reminder, and if they ignore that, a bailiff will be sent to seize their driver licence. Licences will remain suspended until the fine is paid in full, or payment arrangements are in place.
People who have their licence suspended due to unpaid fines or reparation will not be able to apply for a limited licence. And if a person flouts the law by driving while suspended, they risk being charged with that offence, and having the vehicle they were driving impounded for 28 days.
DLSOs feature as part of a new media campaign (television, radio, print, online) encouraging people to pay their fines. It began on 2 February 2014 and has run regularly since then.
For too long fine-dodgers just kept ignoring their obligations and many amassed more fines.
The threat of losing their licences is tough but fair and it’s working.