Thought you’d got away with that parking fine 10 years ago? Think again…
Tens of thousands of people have been left bewildered after receiving letters and text messages demanding payment of hundreds of pounds in fines dating back over a decade.
The demands for unpaid parking tickets and invalid TV licences have been issued in a bid to claw back millions of pounds lost from historic fines.
The orders are part of a scheme being run by the Ministry of Justice with the help of new technology, using databases held by other government departments and online tracing tools which have even managed to locate people who have moved homes.
Since the scheme was launched in September 2016 around £9 million has already been recouped for the taxpayer, but it was not until March this year that the Historic Debt team expanded their tracing activity to include outstanding debts of over 10 years old.
The letters have however left many people confused with some even believing it was a scam and ignoring the requests all together.
The confusion can be blamed in part to the letters failing to include information on the particular incident in question, leaving people to wonder how they are able to prove their innocence.
Recipients are therefore being forced to contact their local magistrates court in order to trace what their alleged offence was.
In one incident a man was charged with a driving offence, despite being abroad at the time, but as a result of the mounting late repayment charges was left with no choice but to pay up.
Mark Thornton, 46, of Kilburn, North London, told the Mail on Sunday how, out of the blue, he received an official letter demanding £183.
He said: “It didn’t actually say what the fine was for but eventually we were told it was for an untaxed vehicle. My wife and I were living in Switzerland in 2010, when it was supposed to have occurred.
“’We didn’t have the paperwork any more and we didn’t want to rack up more fees so we just paid it. It felt Kafka-esque.”
The government department responsible has advised that it has been contacting debtors in order to seek payments and further enforcement activity will follow where appropriate.
Such incidents were also reported by The Mail on Sunday with some recipients being hit with further charges from bailiffs and threatened with court action.
Sandra Straupmanis, 54, of Shadwell, East London, received a demand for £205, which related to non-payment of a TV licence seven years ago.
Her son, Dagnis, 29, said: “My mother was very distressed. She rang the number on the letter and discovered it was for a property she had long moved out of.
“Someone else in her shared house put her name on the licence. But she had no way of proving that.”
The Ministry of Justice have since said that those who believe they are being wrongly accused can appeal at magistrates court.
An HM Courts and Tribunals Service spokesman said: “The Historic Debt project was set up to tackle outstanding debt.
‘It has collected £9 million, including compensation owed to victims of crime. Anyone who believes they have been wrongly contacted can appeal through their local magistrates’ court.”
A spokesman added that not all debtors have been contacted at this time and that the pursuit of following up the debts will continue.
If you have been contacted the Ministry of Justice advise that you make immediate payment or contact the National Enforcement Service contact centre.