Backlog of court 'fines' and charges owed by criminals rises to £1.2bn

Backlog of court ‘fines’ and charges owed by criminals to compensate victims rises to £1.2billion in five years, analysis shows

  • Total amount of outstanding payments, £1.2bn, includes £780m in court fines
  • Debt from compensation orders has risen 22 per cent to £80million on 2016
  • Some sums owed from a decade ago still haven’t been collected from offenders 
  • More than a billion pounds of court fines and other charges owed by criminals to compensate victims has gone uncollected over the past five years, analysis has shown.

    The total amount of outstanding payments, £1.2billion, includes more than £780million worth of court fines – more than double the figure in 2016 – and up £30million in the past year alone.

    Meanwhile, debt from compensation orders – where offenders must pay for any personal loss, injury or damage due to a crime – has risen 22 per cent to £80million, while unpaid court costs have spiked to £238million – 67 per cent up on 2016.

    At the same time, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) recorded a drop of £84million in fines received by the department last year – a 22 per cent fall on the previous 12 months.

    In addition, nearly £300million has been spent by the National Compliance and Enforcement Service over the last five years, with a significant proportion being used to recover the unpaid fines.

    Along with the current backlog, some sums owed from a decade ago have still not been collected – letting offenders escape part of their punishment.

    Just 96 per cent of the original penalties from the 2010/11 financial year have been collected, leaving over £8million still owed to the MoJ. 

    The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) recorded a drop of £84million in fines received by the department last year ¿ a 22 per cent fall on the previous 12 months. (stock image)

    The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) recorded a drop of £84million in fines received by the department last year – a 22 per cent fall on the previous 12 months. (stock image)

    Figures also show that victims of crime are increasingly failing to be compensated – the total victim surcharge debt has more than trebled from £24.5million to £77.4million since 2016. 

    The surcharge, introduced in 2007, is intended to fund organisations for victims of crime.

    The only debt to fall, criminal court charges – which cover courts’ running costs – still sits at £22million, down from £53.4million in 2016.

    The figures come after it emerged that a backlog in crown court cases could extend beyond 2027 without additional funding.

    Labour’s justice spokesman Steve Reed said the ‘high on tax, soft on crime Conservative Government are letting criminals off the hook yet again while victims go uncompensated’. 

    He added: ‘Every pound uncollected is money that could have been spent on more police officers or reducing the courts backlog – it means that taxpayers end up paying more and more.’

    Labour's justice spokesman Steve Reed (pictured) said the 'high on tax, soft on crime Conservative Government are letting criminals off the hook yet again while victims go uncompensated'.

    Labour’s justice spokesman Steve Reed (pictured) said the ‘high on tax, soft on crime Conservative Government are letting criminals off the hook yet again while victims go uncompensated’.

    However, some campaigners say there is little point in courts fining people who will ‘struggle to pay’ in the first place. 

    Penelope Gibbs, of Transform Justice, said: ‘Police cautions have a better record in reducing reoffending than court fines.’

    A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: ‘Under this government, offenders are being told to pay more, both in fines and to victims, which account for these increases.

    ‘Over the past five years we have collected over £300million from offenders.’