HIGGINS HOLLYWOOD DEAZLEY TO ASSIST VICTIMS OF ‘UNLAWFUL’ COURT FINES IMPRISONMENT

19 December 2016

We can advise that on Friday the 7 June 2013 the initial case was referred to the County Court in order that damages can be assessed. Please contact us to ensure your entitlement to compensation can be considered by our solicitors.

 

19 December 2016

ANYONE who has spent time in prison having failed to pay a court fine may be entitled to be compensated as a victim of false imprisonment, a partner at HHD Solicitors has warned.

A recent decision by the High Court of Northern Ireland ruled that the practice of the courts and the PSNI of automatically imprisoning those who have defaulted on court fines - without giving them a fair hearing first - was unlawful.

The landmark decision has been welcomed by Matt Higgins, head of the criminal department at Higgins Hollywood Deazley Solicitors.

As a criminal law practitioner of almost 25 years standing, Mr Higgins says that he has seen many imprisoned for failure to pay court fines. He argues that the previous system was an infringement upon a person's basic human right to a fair hearing and believes that the ruling has opened the door to potential civil action by many of these people.

"Up to 2,000 people per year in Northern Ireland are sent to prison for non-payment of fines that have been imposed by the courts, often for very minor offences," he said. "It costs £95,000 a year to keep a prisoner in gaol, so it is apparent how expensive this system had become to the public purse."

Mr Higgins says that the individual will now be summonsed to court and given the opportunity to explain the reasons for their non payment - such as severe financial hardship caused by a reduction in their benefit payments or the loss of a job.

"Think of the example of a young single mother who could not afford to pay her TV licence in the first place - never mind the hefty court fine on top," he said. "It is only right that people like her should be given a fair hearing, to explain why they have been unable to pay their fine."

The previous system was successfully challenged at the High Court in March, after which the Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan acknowledged that damages claims were likely to merge from others who may be affected by the ruling. Sir Declan said that the High Court would have to look at ‘test cases' in respect of these claims in order to develop a scale (of damages) and deal with any preliminary issues that may arise from them.

Have you been imprisoned following your failure to pay a court fine?

At Higgins Hollywood Deazley Solicitors we have issued court proceedings in a ‘test case' in order to ascertain the level of damages that are likely to be available to victims of the previous unlawful system.

Our highly experienced litigation department would welcome a call from any person who has been affected by this issue.

Please contact us on 028 90 770770 or e-mail us at:

matthiggins@hhdsolicitors.com, charlenedempsey@hhdsolicitors.com or johnokelly@hhdsolicitors.com

for free advice about what compensation you may be entitled to.

 

Click on link below to view printed article as appeared in North Belfast News

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