Courts will text fine dodgers to pay up

MAGISTRATES' courts in Suffolk are set to use text messaging to help recoup more than £2.7million in unpaid debts, it emerged today.The new offensive is aimed at using the modern technology to speed up collection, compensate crime victims and ensure justice is done.

MAGISTRATES' courts in Suffolk are set to use text messaging to help recoup more than £2.7million in unpaid debts, it emerged today.

The new offensive is aimed at using the modern technology to speed up collection, compensate crime victims and ensure justice is done.

The text scheme is being rolled out nationwide after being piloted in Staffordshire. This saw magistrates send a "pay up or get locked up" message to about 150 fine evaders' mobile phones.

Around three quarters of the offenders paid up immediately, prompting to the National Enforcement Service (NES) to consider introducing it permanently from April 2007.

Now the scheme is set to be extended to Suffolk, despite the collection rate already being very high.

Courts in the county imposed £1.192million in fines between September and November and collected £1.133, leaving £59,000 outstanding. However, the total amount not paid tops £2.7million.

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Constitutional Affairs Minister Rt. Hon. Harriet Harman QC MP has backed the move.

She said: "Everyone's got a mobile phone and as one of the most common ways to keep in touch these days, it makes sense for the courts to contact offenders that way too.

"It's about being one step ahead of the criminals. It doesn't cost much, it's quick and effective and most importantly offenders take notice.”

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