News Letter
30 May 2012

FROM next week, police officers in Northern Ireland will have the power to issue fixed penalties for anyone caught drinking in public places and disorderly behaviour.

Justice Minister David Ford says the new powers which come into force on June 6, will result in 1,500 fewer people going to court each year and forms part of his agenda to speed up the justice system.

David Ford and ACC George Hamilton announced the commencement of the new powers in Belfast City Centre on Wednesday morning.

“Fixed penalty notices are about delivering speedy, effective and proportionate justice responses to a range of low level offences,” said Mr Ford.

“Currently two-thirds of all crimes prosecuted through our courts result in the offender receiving a fine of £100 or less.

“Many of these cases involve individuals with little or no previous offending history, who have committed relatively minor offences which they admit in court.

“Fixed penalty notices will allow for these cases to be dealt with in a more efficient and proportionate way and at the same time free up vital resources within the criminal justice system.”

Under the new powers which come into force on 6 June, a first time offender could receive a £40 fixed penalty notice for being drunk in a public place or an £80 for disorderly behaviour.

Assistant Chief Constable George Hamilton said: “As part of our Service Excellence programme to deliver speedy, proportionate and visible justice I welcome the introduction of fixed penalty notices for minor offences.

“This is just one of a number of non court disposals that we have available to deal with minor offences.

“By issuing the fixed penalty notices, we cut down on the number of cases that are forwarded to the Public Prosecutions Service which in turn reduces bureaucracy and allows officers to spend more time out on the beat.”

In accepting a penalty notice, offenders have an opportunity to avoid a criminal record for an isolated or out-of-character offence which could affect their long term employment prospects, though a record of issue will be kept and will be available to police, prosecution and courts for consideration in the event of any further offence.