Fixed Penalty Notices will speed up justice – Ford

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Fixed penalty notices for low level offences come into force next week, Justice Minister David Ford has announced.

Police officers will have the power to issue fines of either £40 or £80 to first time offenders covering a range of designated offences.

It is expected that new powers will result in 1,500 fewer people going to court each year and forms part of the Minister’s agenda to speed up the justice system.

David Ford and ACC George Hamilton announced the commencement of the new powers in Belfast City Centre this morning.

David Ford said: “Fixed penalty notices are about delivering speedy, effective and proportionate justice responses to a range of low level offences.

“Currently two-thirds of all crimes prosecuted through our courts result in the offender receiving a fine of £100 or less.

“Many of these cases involve individuals with little or no previous offending history, who have committed relatively minor offences which they admit in court.

“Fixed penalty notices will allow for these cases to be dealt with in a more efficient and proportionate way and at the same time free up vital resources within the criminal justice system.”

Under the new powers which come into force on 6 June, a first time offender could receive a £40 fixed penalty notice for being drunk in a public place or an £80 for disorderly behaviour.

The powers are part of the Justice Act taken through the Assembly by David Ford last year.

David Ford said: “Fixed penalty notices are not about being soft on low level crime and anti-social behaviour. The penalty notice will not be used for habitual offenders who will continue to be prosecuted through the courts.”

Assistant Chief Constable George Hamilton said: “As part of our Service Excellence programme to deliver speedy, proportionate and visible justice I welcome the introduction of fixed penalty notices for minor offences. This is just one of a number of non court disposals that we have available to deal with minor offences. By issuing the fixed penalty notices, we cut down on the number of cases that are forwarded to the Public Prosecutions Service which in turn reduces bureaucracy and allows officers to spend more time out on the beat.”