National Audit Office concerned over millions in unpaid fines

Toomas Mattson | 6/27/2007 | 12:00 AM

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TALLINN, 27 June 2007 - The National Audit Office is concerned about the situation that has developed in Estonia whereby lawbreakers are flouting their obligation to pay police-issued fines – of which those whose deadline has elapsed by only six months alone have already reached around 350 million kroons. It is a trend which is damaging to social morale and civil obedience.

By the end of 2005, the total sum of police fines that had failed to be paid within six months came to 264 million kroons. The same figure at the end of 2006 was 344 million kroons, showing quite clearly that the outstanding amount is growing. The fines in question are those that have been issued by the police to people who have broken traffic and other civic rules and which have not been paid voluntarily or obtained through court orders. Fines are issued by the police, but seeing that they are paid is not the responsibility of the police themselves – this is dealt with by bailiffs.

The National Audit Office has launched an audit designed to support the police, the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Justice in their efforts to improve the way the system operates and to ensure that no one is able to ignore the law and leave fines unpaid. Designated forms of penalty must also be implemented, where required replacing fines with prison terms, as set out in law.

Ülle Madise, a lawyer and Audit Director with the National Audit Office, says that the number of unpaid fines is a serious problem in penal policy. “When a law is broken, the designated penalty needs to be enforced as soon as possible. Penalties are only thought to be effective in correcting people’s behaviour if there is no way they can get out of them, they follow the act of breaking the law quickly and they are brought down in full force.”

Police records show that in the worst cases there are lawbreakers who have amassed up to twenty unpaid fines in the last five or six years.

Madise adds that when the National Audit Office investigated why these fines were going unpaid, it became apparent that the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of the Interior, the Police Board, the courts and bailiffs all have a different understanding of the deadlines on court orders issues with regard to fines. The law can be interpreted as meaning that there is a period of 18 months in which to obtain payment of a fine from an individual or change the penalty to a prison term, but also that the period for demanding payment is 30 years. This latter is especially problematic from the point of view of penal policy.

Based on its preliminary schedule, the National Audit Office’s audit should be completed within a few months.

Toomas Mattson
Communication Manager of National Audit Office
Telephone: 6400 777
Mob: 51 34900
E-mail: [email protected]

  • Posted: 6/27/2007 12:00 AM
  • Last Update: 9/15/2015 1:22 PM
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