People with unpaid fines or reparation for traffic-related offences could find themselves barred from driving under powerful new sanctions which come into effect this month, Courts Minister Chester Borrows says.
From Monday 17 February ‘Driver Licence Stop Orders’ (DLSOs) can be imposed on anyone who fails to pay traffic-related fines imposed on them by a Court, Police or a local government authority – or a reparation order imposed on them by a Court – for a traffic-related offence.
Mr Borrows says DLSOs are a powerful new sanction, which will initially be targeted at repeat offenders who’ve racked up big overdue debts.
“There are around 136,000 people who between them owe $48 million in traffic related fines and are making no attempt to pay,” Mr Borrows says.
“A lot of them have chosen to ignore repeated reminders and if they remain uncooperative they’ll pay for it with their driver licence.
“We will focus initially on the worst offenders, but 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 Ministry of Justice, which will hand out the new sanction, will start by giving people with large amounts owing 14 days’ notice to either pay up or set up a payment plan. They’ll get one more reminder, and if they’re not compliant a bailiff will be sent to seize their driver licence.
Their licences will remain suspended until the fine is paid in full, or payment arrangements are in place. And if they’re caught driving while their licence is suspended they could be prosecuted, and have the vehicle they were driving seized for 28 days.
“Of course the aim here isn’t to suspend lots of driver licences,” Mr Borrows says.
“The aim is to get people who’ve been ignoring the authority of law to take things seriously, and to pay their traffic-related fines.
“We’ve made big inroads in recent years in getting people to pay fines – thanks to sanctions such as the powers to seize property, stop people from travelling overseas, stop people making purchases on credit, and directly deducting money from wages.
“Those measures have seen the total level of unpaid fines and reparation fall by nearly a quarter of a billion dollars since 2009. But that still leaves $554.4 million in unpaid fines – the vast majority of offenders (96%) owing money for vehicle-related offences. In that context, the ability to bar people from driving is a powerful new tool to enforce penalties, because driving matters to most people with fines.”
A new television, radio and online advertising campaign will launch on Sunday 2 February, letting people know about DLSOs and other enforcement powers, and encouraging those with unpaid traffic fines or reparation to arrange payment.