Officials from the Courts Service have said the mechanism for collecting fines is causing problems and is not working in the manner it is supposed to.

The Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee heard that €27 million in fines has not been paid within the time requested by the courts. 

Officials from the Courts Service said legislation put in place in 2016 had made collecting fines more difficult.  

Speaking to the PAC, the Chief Executive Officer of the Courts Service said there is a good process in place to collect fines.

However, Angela Deering said when someone does not attend court there is no mechanism to bring them into court other than issuing a bench warrant.

Asked by Fine Gael TD Peter Burke if she had confidence in the system Ms Deering said "it definitely causes problems. 

Head of Circuit and District Court Operations with the Courts Service, Peter Mullan, said the courts service board was critical of the Fines Act before it was enacted in 2014 but he said they ensured it was enforced.  

He said that when it became clear that it wasn't working to collect the level of monies that it should have been they raised the matter with the Minister for Justice. 

Mr Mullan said the Department had set up a working group which is ongoing to try to come up with a solution. 

Mr Burke said the situation was at crisis level. He said if a court imposes a fine on a perpetrator and he is not paying his debt to society then the justice system is not working.

Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry said one third of traffic-related fines were not being paid. 

He told the committee that traffic related fines were down from €11.2m in 2014 to €6.9m in 2018. 

Department of Justice and Equality official Richard Fallon said they were looking at ways to make the legislation more enforceable. 

He said: "We are looking at ways to make the legislation more enforceable and what I'm saying is that it's not a question of not locking people up it's that doesn't offer a simplistic solution particularly for people who are in dire economic situations." 

Mr MacSharry said the legislation clearly hadn't worked and he said the "proof was in the pudding".

He said: "We used to collect the money very efficiently back in 2014 but once we legislated for it we're now incapable of doing that."