Guelph court services hires collection agencies to deal with unpaid fines

Guelph court services plans to use collection agencies to help recover $14 million worth of outstanding fines in the Guelph-Wellington area.
The City of Guelph has hired a collection agent to recover $14M in outstanding fines. (Kate Bueckert/CBC News)

The City of Guelph is hiring collection agencies to assist in collecting over $14 million in unpaid fines.

"This is something that we've been enforcing all along," said Brad Coutts, General Manager of Court Services.

"It's simply that in this magnitude of these amounts of outstanding files that we need to engage the assistance of a collections agency because they have the tools, the systems and the resources to do this on such a large scale."

Coutts said the Guelph court service area covers Guelph and Wellington county, but that doesn't mean it's necessarily Guelph citizens who have outstanding fines.

This applies to anyone who was issued a ticket within this area, after committing an offence.

Offences over 10 years old

Coutts said most of these offences are driving-related, and the vast majority were issued within the last 10-15 years.

"It's important to note that consistently each day we deal with fines that go into default. These would be folks that we haven't been able to contact earlier so it could be that we are working those files for years in different stages," he said.

There are several reasons why these fines may have gone unpaid.

Coutts said someone may have been ticketed on the side of the road, set aside the ticket and forgot about it.  It's also a possibility that the person could not afford to pay it at the time.

Over time, people should have received notices reminding them of the outstanding fine. As well, if it's a driving offence there is a possible driver's license suspension triggered by unpaid fines.

Licence plate stickers

Coutts said the Transportation Statute Amendment Act was passed last summer, which expands plate denial. Currently, if you don't pay your parking ticket you can't get your new validation sticker for your license plate.

"That's going to be expanded under that legislation to include [other]... driving offenses," he said

"That system will be in effect next year, and so we're hoping people will understand that so they can get their matters resolved before they face a plate denial as well – on top of perhaps the license suspension they have already faced."