Debt dodger told he could be sent to jail

A FAILED 57-year-old painter and decorator was finally taken to task by Eastbourne magistrates after 10 years of dodging court debts.

Terrance Tonks, of no fixed address, was fined £270 in 2001 for not paying his television licence. Although he initially insisted he had been unable to clear the outstanding fine in the past decade at Eastbourne Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday (April 19), it emerged that in that time he had bought a high definition television, registered for benefits and had a brief spell of work.

He was also ordered to pay court costs of £25 in 2009, which are yet to be paid. He was adamant that, despite his best efforts to find work as a painter, decorator and gardener, he been offered just the one two-week stint of work.

Under questioning from court clerk Chris Dangerfield, Tonks said he had put cards up all over town to advertise his services but he had not received one offer of employment.

Tonks admitted he had been paid £338 in 2009. He also said he had been on benefits for six months in 2008.

Court clerk Dangerfield warned, “Let’s put it in simple terms. The fines lady you spoke to is the good cop and now you’re before the bad cops and our options are limited.”

Magistrates adjourned the case while bailiffs go to Tonks’ friend’s house in Tenterden Close, where Tonks is staying, to see if they can gather together enough items to sell for the value of £295.

Tonks said all he had to his name were paint rollers, brushes, other work materials, a television and CD player.

Mr Wallis said, “You’re not offering us anything, only if, but and when you’re getting a job next. And you don’t know how much it’s going to be. You seem to live outside the rest of society.

“You don’t have money to pay for anything, you owe the court £295, you’ve been delaying with the court’s fines officer and she has utterly given up on you.

“We’re loathe to send people to jail but one criteria we have to satisfy is if the person involved is wilfully refusing to pay. You’ve had 10 years to pay and you’re not telling me you’ve not had some money to pay in the last 10 years.

“I don’t quite know how you exist.”