The better-off could be forced to pay higher fines than the less well-off for the same offence, under plans revealed last week by Lord Falconer, the constitutional affairs secretary.
Lord Falconer argued that a range of fines could be more closely linked to income in a lecture he delivered to Birmingham University last week. "We need to keep improving our enforcement of penalties and especially fines, and indeed to ask whether fines should be linked more closely to income so that those who can pay more do pay more," he said. Presently judges have a limited discretion to impose fines for lesser crimes, such as motoring offences and failing to renew a TV licence, but the new plans would widen the courts' powers.
Lord Falconer went on to make the case for reforms of the way in which penalties were enforced. "Almost a third of all fines remain unpaid," he said. "Too many offenders are still getting away with it. That is not acceptable and we will continue to press hard for real improvements in enforcement."
Lord Falconer also raised the possibility of "integrated domestic violence courts and specialist drug courts, with dedicated judges, integrated agencies and targeted services". The Solicitors Family Law Association is against such an innovation. In the group's response to last year's consultation paper, 'Safety and Justice', they argued that cases of domestic violence should remain the preserve of the family courts. "We have to remember that we're dealing with family situations whether parties are married or unmarried, it doesn't matter," Jane McCulloch, chairman of the SFLA Domestic Abuse Committee, told LawZone last September(Domestic Violence Reform: Family Law Experts Say "No" to Specialist Courts) . "The family court deals with all the other aspects of the problem, such as children, divorce and finances and it understands the knock-on effects of domestic violence cases whereas the criminal court deals with a case in isolation."