Derry Judge’s stark warning over court fines

The courthouse at Bishop Street, Derry.
The courthouse at Bishop Street, Derry.

Derry’s District Judge Barney McElholm has today warned those who “seem to believe in the myth that court fines will never be enforced” to pay up - or face the consequences.

During this morning’s hearings at Derry Magistrate’s Court, where a number of default fine hearings were heard - Mr McElholm said: “Someone is perpetuating the myth that these fines, if left long enough, will go away.

“The message has to go out there that these fines have to be paid, contrary to what people are being led to believe.”

Mr McElholm went on to say: “Things are changing. People will have their benefits sequestered to cover fines.

“I don’t particularly agree with that approach, as it will take people below what is a very low minimum income level by anyone’s standards - but this is what it has come to.”

Mr McElholm dealt with a number of cases this morning where he imposed warrants for payment or instalment plans for fines.

On a number of occasions he pointed out if defendants had made token payments, of even one pound a week, they could have clear their debts to the court. Instead they now faced warrants on the outstanding amounts.