PUBLISHED March 13, 2006

More than one thousand warrants have been executed, criminals arrested and ?60,000 in unpaid fines collected following a major effort by courts staff across London to pursue elusive offenders.

The money collected means many victims of crime in the capital will be compensated.

London's 36 magistrates' courts began their crackdown last month on thousands of outstanding warrants.

A quarter of all unpaid court fines in England and Wales originate from London.

Courts chased fines evaders, some of whom had failed to attend court or complete their community service. A court penalty often includes an order to compensate victims.

The courts flushed out hundreds of criminals by letter, phone call and text, warning them to pay up or suffer the consequences including being sent to jail. One person was jailed for 182 days. Much of the campaign's success depended on the element of surprise, and enforcement officers turned up at criminals' homes at odd times of the day and night when they failed to respond to letters and text messages.

The enforcement drive has been so successful that it will continue until June.

Constitutional Affairs Minister Rt. Hon. Harriet Harman QC MP said:

"Victims of crime are the biggest beneficiaries of this enforcement drive. Not just in terms of collecting money owed to them but, perhaps more significantly, because it shows victims, their families and the community generally that criminals are being properly punished and justice is being done.

"The criminals who were arrested or forced to pay up would have been tracked down eventually. But the concerted campaign means they were brought to justice much more quickly than they would have been otherwise and before some of them would have had an opportunity to re-offend.

"To ensure fines are a credible sentencing option they need to be enforced and that's what this campaign is doing. It is also joined up justice at its best with court staff, bailiffs and police working closely together to increase victim satisfaction with the justice system."

London courts were able to track down so many criminals by using the latest technology as well as accessing the Police National Computer and the Department for Work and Pensions' database, the Customer Information System (CIS).