The introduction of fixed penalty notices will mean that up to 1,500 fewer people a year will be going to court in Northern Ireland.

From 6 June, PSNI officers will have the power to issue fines for first time offenders for low level offences instead of summonses.

Those who choose to accept a fine of either £40 or £80 (€50-100) will avoid having a criminal record.

The £40 fine will cover indecent behaviour and being drunk in public, while the £80 fine will be issued for disorderly behaviour, breach of the peace, criminal damage and shoplifting up to a value of £100.

NI Justice Minister David Ford said the new system gives first time offenders a chance to avoid a criminal record, but would not be used for habitual criminals who will still be prosecuted through the courts.

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

Mr Ford said 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.