$16 million owed in outstanding court fines in Rotorua

Rotorua criminals are receiving fewer fines but the amount outstanding continues to grow, new figures show.

More than $18 million is owed in outstanding court fines and reparation in Rotorua. About half of that – more than $8m – was considered overdue or outstanding.

Figures released to the Rotorua Daily Post by the Ministry of Justice under the Official Information Act show the amount of court-imposed fines and court-ordered reparation is growing in Rotorua, despite court judges imposing fewer fines and reparation orders.

The amount of fines owed in Rotorua at the financial year ending June 2017 was $16,629,753, which had steadily increased since June 2013 when it was $15,816,152. The amount of reparation owed is $2,284,451, up from $1,956,312 five years prior.

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The amount of fines overdue at the end of the last financial year was $8,043,318 and the amount of reparation overdue $581,242.

Judges in Rotorua imposed more than $5m in fines in the last financial year, down from more than $7m five years earlier.

Rotorua defence lawyer Louis Te Kani said the figures were indicative of what he saw through his clients.

Louis Te Kani. KTA 16Nov11 -
Louis Te Kani. KTA 16Nov11 –

“It comes down to the environment people are living in at the moment. Unemployment is now a big factor and we are in a depressed economy. For many it is hard to get out of the rut. A lot of people are in that rut and stay there for years on end.”

Te Kani said from what he saw Rotorua judges were good at using discretion and only imposing fines and reparation if they truly believed the offender could afford it.

“They are more considerate of people’s circumstances and where appropriate impose other community-based sentences such as community work rather than fines that just set people up to fail.”

Rotorua man Fraser Newman said he wasn’t surprised by the figures, from what he experienced of the justice process last year after his wife was a victim of a street robbery.

Fraser Newman
Fraser Newman

Jane Newman was robbed in central Rotorua in April last year by George Harris, who knocked her to the ground and stole $300 she had just withdrawn from a money machine.

The Newmans sought reparation for her medical bills, the missing cash and damage to Mrs Newman’s handbag, totalling less than $500.

Judge David Wilson, QC, didn’t impose reparation saying during sentencing that Harris had no means to pay. In sentencing Harris to 18 months’ prison, he also wiped his $1900 in outstanding court fines.

Mr Newman said the sentencing left them feeling “livid” with the justice system.

He suggested if reparation was not imposed, perhaps victims could instead be given a tax rebate of the same amount so they weren’t left out of pocket.

“It’s the innocent victims who end up paying. If the Government was still having to pay (victims), then perhaps judges will take it more seriously.”

Rotorua fines and reparation 5-year comparison
Financial year – Fines imposed – Reparation imposed
2012-13 – $7,398,192 – $545,742
2016-17 – $5,628,416 – $534,247

Financial year – Fines outstanding – Reparation outstanding
2012-13 – $15,816,152 – $1,956,312
2016-17 – $16,629,753 – $2,284,451

Financial year – Fines overdue – Reparation overdue
2012-13 – $6,059,474 – $547,774
2016-17 – $8,043,318 – $581,242

Financial year – Fines collected – Reparation collected
2012-13 – $5,961,697 – $468,055
2016-17 – $4,253,665 – $379,297

Financial year – Fines remitted – Reparation remitted
2012-13 – $1,548,801 – $2237
2016-17 – $842,450 – $19,949

Highest amount of fines and reparation owed by a single offender
Fines – $200,050, imposed in 2013 for deceptive business/government practices; miscellaneous offences
Reparation – $157,260, imposed in 2006 for forgery and counterfeiting

About fines
* The court can take money from your income or bank account
* The court can clamp your car
* The court can stop you travelling overseas
* The court can suspend your driver licence
* You may not be able to get a loan, credit card or hire purchase
* The court can take action against people and organisations who don’t pay their fines on time
* If you owe fines and aren’t paying, any of these actions could be taken against you. A fee of $102 can be added when the court takes enforcement action

Help with fines
* To pay a fine or find out if you owe fines, go to www.justice.govt.nz/fines/about-fines

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