SPER is fine, your Honour

DO YOU wish that fine to be referred to SPER?

It’s a question that rolls off Hervey Bay Magistrate Graeme Tatnell’s tongue as easily as a take away sales assistant would ask “would you like fries with that?” and it’s giving offenders an easy way out.

The State Penalties Enforcement Registry – or SPER – is currently managing more than 700,000 court fines across Queensland including those handed out by magistrates in Hervey Bay and Maryborough.

When someone receives a fine in court they have the opportunity to pay the fine off through the registry, and almost everyone jumps at the chance.

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said generally people had 28 days to pay their fine, but the court had the discretion to grant varying time periods depending on the offence.

“Payment arrangements vary depending on the individual circumstances of each debtor,” the spokesperson said

“For example, most people receive income weekly, fortnightly or monthly so a payment arrangement can be tailored to fit in with their income cycle.”

It was also confirmed that even after a magistrate or judge has made an order about a default payment period, offenders who have not complied are still eligible to apply for a payment plan.

As of September, 209,126 debts worth $92.5million were under active compliance by the debtor and 103,515 debts worth $47.3million were subject to enforcement action.

A range of enforcement measures could be put into place for someone who failed to meet their payments, and imprisonment was always the last resort.

Other options included driver licence suspension, garnishing of bank accounts/wages, registering an interest over property, vehicle immobilisation and seizure of assets.

While the decision to allow re-offenders to pay off their fines through SPER can only be made in court, the spokesperson said the department had no limit on the amount of times someone could be referred.

At least four Queensland residents are currently paying off more than $100,000 worth of court fines.

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