Sussex criminals owe the public purse nearly £14 million in court fines and costs, the Argus can reveal.

The county’s magistrates’ courts and crown courts have written off a further £14.5 million in the last five and a half years.

An Argus Freedom of Information request has revealed that over the last five years the amount owed in fines, costs, victim surcharge and compensation payments has varied between £12.7 million and £15.7 million.

Although officials have launched various new payment methods, debt collectors have failed to get on top of the problem.

Campaigners criticised the county’s courts for “undermining the justice system”.

Robert Oxley, from the Taxpayers’ Alliance, added: “The courts are handing out high fines only for them to remain uncollected. They need to do more.”

Larger fines

The Argus can also reveal the county’s criminals who still owe the highest amounts.

A total of £89,434 is still owed from a single court order from April 2010 in which the defendant was told to pay £92,878.

Another criminal, whose identity is protected, owes £45,608 for a speeding offence, failing to comply with a court order and failing to give information from 2005.

Another is yet to pay a penny towards an order for £31,857 issued nearly two years ago. The total includes £24,000 for a breach of an enforcement notice, £7,842 in costs and a £15 victim surcharge.

Serious issue

Mr Oxley added: “If criminals aren’t made to pay then it makes a mockery of any punishment given to them.

"Courts need to do more to ensure those outstanding debts are collected so that taxpayers’ money isn’t being wasted on a system that doesn’t chase up payments.”

A Courts Service spokesman said: “We take the issue of fine enforcement very seriously and are working to ensure clamping down on fine dodgers is a continued priority nationwide.

“There are a number of sanctions available to deal with offenders who default on the payment terms of their fines.

“These can include deductions from the offender’s benefits or earnings, clamping of vehicles, registration of the fine on the register of fines and judgments, issue of warrants and ultimately imprisonment for non payment.”

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