Criminals refusing to pay up, despite court orders

7th August 2017 1:33 PM
OUT OF POCKET: Mattress Gallery owner Adam Ransley is owed $10,000 of unpaid debt. OUT OF POCKET: Mattress Gallery owner Adam Ransley is owed $10,000 of unpaid debt. Jamie Hanson

A PETTY cash crime at Caboolture's Mattress Gallery has revealed a legal flaw that is preventing owner Adam Ransley from getting back $10,000 in stolen money.

In September 2015, the Caboolture Magistrate ordered former Mattress Gallery manager Hayley Smith to pay Mr Ransley $17,251 restitution within 18 months or serve 122 days jail.

She pleaded guilty to 58 charges of stealing as a servant and was given a suspended jail sentence with two years' probation.

But Ms Smith still owes Mr Ransley almost $10,000, four months after her due date of March 17 this year, because the State Penalties Enforcement Registry hasn't imprisoned her.

Mr Ransley said he wanted to see Ms Smith behind bars for breaching the magistrate's order.

"My main gripe is the hole in the system,” he said.

"SPER handle billions of dollars' worth of debt and they're not sentencing people to jail irrespective of the magistrate's orders.

"It's a whole system built to keep people out of jail no matter what they're doing and there's nothing the system can do.”

In the first three months of this year alone, more than $9 million worth of compensation orders were referred to the registry.

The registry's total debt is nearing $1.2 billion (mostly due to tolling debts), but only one person has been arrested in the past five years for unpaid debts.

Commissioner of the office of state revenue Liz Goli said the registry had many mechanisms to retrieve debt, but imprisonment was always the last resort.

"SPER's mandate under law is to reduce the use of imprisonment for fine default by encouraging the use of other enforcement mechanisms,” she said.

"We have invested in new programs targeted to recover debt, like the highly successful Vehicle Immobilisation, Seizure and Sale Program, which has recovered more than $1.6 million since being introduced last year.”

Ms Goli admitted there were flaws in the current system as magistrates and the registry operated under two separate acts with two different desired outcomes.

"Courts can register restitution orders with SPER. At this point, SPER becomes responsible for the collection of the unpaid amount, under its own legislation; the State Penalties Enforcement Act 1999. We have identified potential improvements relating to the process for referral to SPER of restitution orders made by the court and the interaction between the requirements of the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992 and the SPE Act that require clarification.”