Courts chase criminals with SMS

Y R U L8 4 CRT?
Written by Steve Ranger, Global News Director

Y R U L8 4 CRT?

Magistrates could soon be sending 'pay up or go to jail' texts to criminals who don't pay their fines, following a successful trial of the technology in the Midlands.

Courts are considering sending automated reminders by text, email or phone to fine evaders - offenders who don't do their community service and those who fail to attend court.

The texting service had its first outing in Staffordshire during a fines blitz, dubbed Operation Payback Three.

Around 150 fine evaders were sent messages warning 'pay up or get locked up' - and three-quarters were frightened into paying up immediately.

The DCA said because texting was so successful, it may form part of the National Enforcement Service to be tested later this year.

Constitutional affairs minister Harriet Harman said in a statement: "Everyone's got a mobile phone and as one of the most common ways to keep in touch these days, it makes sense for the courts to contact offenders that way too."

She added: "It doesn't cost much, it's quick and effective and most importantly offenders take notice."

More than £2m in outstanding fines was collected during Operation Payback Three.

Eighty-two per cent of offenders now pay their fine compared with just over 50 per cent two and a half years ago.

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