Service users of Westmeath's district courts will be able pay fines online next year, according to a spokesman for the Courts Service.
The Courts Services' new Courts Accounting System (CAS ) of online payments, will help to improve its collection rate and will alleviate the need for members of the public to attend court offices in person to pay fines. The Courts Service manages and processes over 700,000 financial transactions each year, with a value of around €80 million. These include fines, bail and family law maintenance payments. The old system of paying fines in person at the court office by cheque, postal order or cash had become increasingly awkward, as an increased number of people moved to laser and debit cards.
In 2007, judges imposed €35 million worth of fines, but only 60 per cent of these were ever paid. It is estimated that every 5 per cent improvement in the collection rate brings in €1.75 million. The new online system will also save €1 million annually by freeing up staff time. The CAS scheme is already being used in 13 areas including Dublin, Cork, Galway and Limerick City. Wexford and Longford district court offices are due to go online at the end of this month, while Nenagh and Thurles are scheduled for the start of October.
Uptake in the pilot area has been encouraging, with 70 per cent of people opting to have their family law payments transferred electronically, while just under half use the internet to pay small claims fees. In excess of 1,300 people have paid €320,000 worth of fines online so far.