One of the government’s first orders of business upon returning to Parliament following the Christmas break has been to propose increasing the maximum level of day fines, spot fines and corporate fines.
Last autumn the government doubled spot fines. It’s now proposing hiking the fines once more to an amount about 2.5 times the levels of last August. This means that the smallest spot fine would rise from 20 to 25 euros, and the largest from 200 to 285 euros.
Day fines would also double according to the government proposal. Current day fines are about one-sixtieth of an offender’s average net monthly income. However they would rise to one-thirtieth of monthly net income. The government said it would try to minimise the impact on low income earners by only increasing the lowest day fine by 1.5 times, rather than doubling it. That would take the figure from six to nine euros for low earners.
Corporations and other organisations are also in the government’s crosshairs, as fines for safety and environmental violations are to be tripled from their current levels. The smallest corporate fine would rise to 2,500 euros and the largest would reach 2.5 million euros.
The government hopes to implement the changes during the spring.
Fines a government fundraiser
The government said that the planned increases in day and spot fines are all part of its financial adjustment programme. It estimated that the measure would bring in an additional 53 – 56 million euros in annual revenues. However this estimate is based on the assumption that motorists for example, would continue to violate traffic regulations and incur the fines.
The government proposal also notes that the reforms will cause some increase in government spending. Fines are often levied on low income earners, who may not necessarily pay up. The government is bracing for more people to opt to serve a prison sentence, thereby increasing state spending on prison costs to the tune of roughly four million euros annually.
Last autumn Helsinki University’s assistant criminal justice professor Sakari Melander criticised government’s plans to hike fines. He said that the size of fines to be applied should be determined by judicial considerations, rather than the need to plug holes in state finances.