Is it time to implement a debtors’ prison?

Why aren’t these debt dodgers in a debtors’ prison?

Victims of crime are waiting for tens of millions of dollars from the people who offended against them.

The reparation owed to five district courts with the biggest bills added up to $52 million at the end of the 2014/2015 financial year.

Judges can order an offender to pay reparation if their crime has caused emotional harm to a victim, or if the victim has lost property.

But one deceived employer says his reparation – a third of what he lost – just trickled in for a year.

The court with the biggest bill, $14.3m, is Manukau District Court, according to figures released under the Official Information Act.

Auckland District Court is owed $13.9m, followed by Christchurch District Court on $12.6m. 

Hamilton District Court has $5.7m outstanding and Wellington District Court $5.4m.

In the Waikato, The Riv Bar and Bistro co-owner Bernard Gittings is waiting for his share.

Former employee Jane Bridget Hamilton stole more than $90,000 from the Hamilton East business, and in August 2014 the court ordered she repay $30,000.

“It’s been just getting drip fed,” Gittings said.

“As a business we had to move on but it’s always there. Probably one of the worst things is the customers knew this person… they come in and ‘oh, have you got that money yet?'”

Gittings had been told in court that he would get about $200 a week but said it had been more like $50 a month until recently.

It took two visits to court to get that bumped up to $100 and Gittings said his bugbear was the lack of communication.

If the reparation doesn’t come in, then the criminals should be detained and forced to work to clear their debt.

I don’t care if it’s cutting gorse, digging holes, painting fences, cleaning sewers or any other menial task. This kind of thing gets done by paid workers, so why the hell shouldn’t it be done by debtors and the money paid to victims instead?

It’s court ordered, the courts aren’t enforcing it, so what’s to be done short of allowing the victims ‘eye for an eye’ type justice like some parts of the world? (Try your luck mugging someone in Brazil for instance, and you’re likely to be killed before the cops get there if you’re caught.)

We need to stop being criminal friendly and start being victim friendly.

 

– Fairfax


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