At long last it is possible to pay court fines by instalment, through An Post branches or online. This is a significant improvement on previous rules which only allowed payment in one lump sum, but the payment rules are complicated and it is important to check the details of the fine notice so that the risk of arrest for non-payment is avoided.
Until a few weeks ago court fines could only be paid in a single lump sum but the law and Courts Service systems have been updated to enable payment by instalment.
When a case is being finalised in court, a defendant now has the right to chose whether to pay in a lump sum or by instalment. The choice of payment method will be important in calculating how long the defendant has to pay the fine.
The new payment rules are not straightforward:
- As before, defendants will receive a notice of the fine from the Courts Service which will include a case number and PIN.
- Only fines of €100 or more can be paid by instalment. An administration fee can be charged for payment by instalment, up to a maximum of 10% of the fine.
- A fine can be paid online using a credit or debit card or at any An Post branch using cash, cheque, postal order, bank draft or a payment card. The fine notice with the case number and PIN will be necessary to log in to the online system or to pay at a branch.
- Fines are to be paid in 13 instalments. The first instalment of 10% of the fine must be paid within 42 days of the fine being imposed in court. The second instalment must be paid within 72 days of the fine being imposed in court and the next 10 instalments must be each paid within 30 days of the last. The final instalment of 7.5% of the fine must be paid within 35 days of the payment of the 12th instalment.
The changes are aimed at reducing the rate of non-payment of court fines and therefore the involvement of the Gardaí and Prison Service in arresting and detaining defendants who have not paid.
However, the rules appear somewhat complicated and hopefully will not cause difficulty for defendants. Non-payment of court fines can lead to imprisonment, but the new laws also enable the courts to use other methods of recovering the fine without resorting to a term of imprisonment.