Judicial report: unpaid fines jump to $2.4m

Unpaid fines hit almost $2.4 million last year after thousands of criminal and traffic warrants remained in force.

The total owed has risen by about $300,000 over two years although judicial authorities said agencies worked together to find people wanted by the courts, and the number of outstanding warrants has gone up by more than 2,500 since 2014.

The figures were revealed in the Judicial Department’s Annual Report. The report said: “For five consecutive years, the total number of outstanding warrants has steadily increased.

“In 2018, there were 11,684 outstanding warrants within Magistrates’ Court, which is an increase over the 2017 figure.”

The report explained that outstanding warrants fell into three categories: committals, summary jurisdiction apprehensions and apprehensions.

Committal warrants are issued when a defendant was convicted of an offence, did not pay the fine, asked for more time to pay but did not meet the deadline.

If a defendant has been fined by a magistrate, but failed to meet the payment deadline, a summary jurisdiction apprehension warrant can be issued.

Apprehension warrants are used where defendants do not show up to court for criminal and traffic offences.

The Judicial Department’s report, which was published in February, said: “The total amount of unpaid fines that have accrued as a result of warrants not being executed has escalated to $2,395,312.32 as at December 31, 2018.

“Inter-agency collaboration has been beneficial for the execution of warrants.

The report concluded: “Magistrates have made payment orders so that offenders could pay their fines over a reasonable period of time thereby removing the possibility of incarcerating them for default.”

Figures in the report showed that the number of outstanding warrants increased from 9,178 in 2014 to 10,923 in 2017.

The 2017 annual report, published last year, said the total amount of unpaid fines that had built up due to outstanding warrants was $2,096,167.51 at the end of December 2016.

A Bermuda Police Service spokesman said that officers were asked to find and detain people wanted on warrants on a regular basis.

He added: “When police officers come into contact with members of the public, it is normal practice for them to check to ascertain if there are any outstanding warrants which have been issued by the courts for the arrest of that person.

“On a regular basis, officers are tasked to engage with persons who are wanted on warrant and when located, these individuals are detained in accordance with the instructions contained within the warrant.”

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Published Apr 22, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Apr 22, 2019 at 6:31 am)

Judicial report: unpaid fines jump to $2.4m

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