Wigan motorists warned not to hide from old fines
Motorists across Wigan are being warned there might be no hiding place when it comes to long-forgotten speeding tickets and unpaid car tax.
New online tracing tools have made it easier for the Historic Debts Project team, run by the courts across Greater Manchester, to track down old fines and other penalties imposed by magistrates and judges.
And the regime, which has recouped Â£26.5m nationwide since it was first introduced two years ago, is also biting across the borough.One-time fairground worker Neil Hart, 53, was hauled before Wigan magistrates over a vehicle excise licence offence committed in Rhyl in November 2010.
He told the court he was unaware he had been penalised by Denbigh Magistrates for an untaxed Peugeot 307 parked in the resort’s Queen Street.
And after making a statutory declaration, the proceedings were reopened and he was fined Â£280, with back duty payable of Â£114.
Hart, of Twist Lane, Leigh, said: “If my name is on the log book then it must have been me.
“We used to do fairground rides around there at the Pontins.”
Magistrates heard the first summons may have been sent to an old address in Bolton, before he was tracked down to his current property.
A spokesman for Her Majesty’s Court and Tribunal Service (HMCTS), said: “If an account is found to be suitable for enforcement activity, HMCTS will contact the debtor by letter in order to seek payment and further enforcement activity will follow where appropriate.
“Debtors are able to make a statutory declaration application to their local magistrates’ court if they hadn’t been aware of the proceedings at the time, or if they meet the criteria to set aside any fines from a vehicle fixed penalty.”
Initially new intelligence tools made it possible for the debts team to trace penalties which were up to 10 years old.
But as the initiative has found its feet, investigation officers are confident they can now pursue debts which are more than a decade old.
Court penalties can apply to any fine or even compensation left owing to victims of crime.
But ordinarily the cases usually revolve around the likes of speeding fine or vehicle excise offences, where records are kept by the DVLA.
Motorists can still fall foul of the system for more recent offences though.
In the same court sitting, Clarisse McKenna, 24, of Alder Lane, Hindley Green, was fined Â£100 with Â£85 costs, a Â£30 victim surcharge and three penalty points on her driving licence, after being tracked down for a speeding offence on the M60 between junctions eight and 10, from last October.
However drivers may find themselves occasionally that they aren’t always in the wrong.
Tracey Smith, 37, of Darlington Street East, Wigan, appeared before magistrates, charged with keeping an untaxed Toyota Aygo.
But she told the court that reminder notices had been sent to another house, three doors down, in error, and she had only just discovered her error.
Magistrates, who heard that the car was actually zero-rated for excise duty, gave her an absolute discharge and waived the court costs.
But Smith said that she still had to pay out Â£100 to the DVLA after her car was clamped, before it was released.
If motorists receive a notice from the debts team, and they are concerned about the circumstances of the offence, then they are advised to contact the National Enforcement Service contact centre on 0300 123 9252.