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Thursday 18 July 2019
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Almost $120m in maintenance a year

Attorney General Faris al-Rawi
Attorney General Faris al-Rawi

ABOUT $120 million in maintenance payments was collected by the courts in a one-year period said Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi . He was piloting The Payments into Court Bill in the Senate yesterday. He said the Law Association made the “most startling” submission the Judiciary should not be collecting fines as stated in the Bill.

“The Judiciary of the Republic of TT (before) Independence and post-Independence from 1962 onwards has been and will always be collecting fines.” He said the accounts are labelled as fines accounts. “And therefore I take great caution in accepting some of the recommendations of some of my learned colleagues.”

From 2013 to 2017 the Judiciary had collected fines, fees and marshals’ monies to the tune of $139,672,931.74, which did not include maintenance, and in 2016-2017 that figure was $119,867,451.93. “The current system is that this money is in a draw(er)...in magistracy or in the district revenue offices.”

He said Law Association members have claimed the Courtpay system was illegal, which was not true. He said this judicial software system was introduced in April this year, cost $75,000 to set up and allows people without bank accounts to use debit and top-up cards to receive payments for which they would otherwise spend days in a line at the magistracy.

“They can get it paid to them without the indignity of the sign saying ‘out to lunch’ and you watching somebody eat a sandwich in front your face from 12 o’clock to one o’clock.”

He said the Chief Justice issued
a practice direction on Court pay in May 18 this year to the Judiciary, it was only in the Family Court and therefore High Court Division, it was not in the magistracy, which was still manual, and it was a voluntary court order.

The Law Association expressed concerns the bill would have the Judiciary dealing with potentially large sums of money that would be deposited into bank accounts, had very strong criticism of the Judiciary collecting fines, as this breached the powers of separation doctrine, and there were deep concerns with the appointment of the deputy court executive administrator.

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