Published Wednesday, 30 May 2012
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UTV NEWS POLL
Do you agree with the introduction of new on-the-spot fines for disorderly behaviour or being drunk in public?
It's estimated 1,500 fewer people will have to go to court each year in Northern Ireland as a result of the on-the-spot penalties, speeding up the process of dealing with minor offences.
Police say fewer people will also be faced with a criminal record over something they've done while under the influence of alcohol.
"Many people do silly things for many reasons, whether it's alcohol or something else," PSNI Assistant Chief Constable George Hamilton told UTV.
"It's important that we don't criminalise people unnecessarily."
Previously, offenders could find themselves arrested and appearing in court - then being handed a £100 fine and having a criminal record which can impact on education, employment and travel opportunities.
This is not an attempt at additional employment - this is to give us more flexibility in how we do enforcement.
Assistant Chief Constable George Hamilton
"Proportionality is the key word," ACC Hamilton said, adding that issuing fixed penalty notices would cut down on bureaucracy and allow officers to spend more time on the beat instead of behind desks.
Justice Minister David Ford launched the scheme in Belfast city centre on Wednesday morning, ahead of the changes coming into effect on 6 June.
"Fixed penalty notices are about delivering speedy, effective and proportionate justice responses to a range of low-level offences," Mr Ford said.
"Currently two-thirds of all crimes prosecuted through our courts result in the offender receiving a fine of £100 or less - many of these cases involve individuals with little or no previous offending history, who have committed relatively minor offences which they admit in court."
The fine of £40 applies to indecent behaviour, urinating in the street and public drunkenness, while £80 fines could be handed out for offences including disorderly behaviour, breach of the peace and obstructing police.
Records of the fines will be kept to ensure police are aware of repeat offenders, but they won't go towards an individual's criminal record.