FINE dodgers are being given one last chance to pay off their debts to the courts or face arrest and possible imprisonment.
The ultimatum follows a national clampdown on the non-payment of fines and compensation to injured victims.
Chester Magistrates Court sent out a letter two weeks ago to people who owed money, warning them that a warrant had been issued for their immediate arrest.
However, fines enforcement officers said they were offering defaulters an 'amnesty' on Monday, December 15, and Tuesday, December 16, between 9.30am-9pm, and would cancel people's warrants if they turned up on one of these days.
Elvyn Birch, enforcement manager for Cheshire magistrates' courts, said: 'We're giving defaulters almost like an amnesty, to come in voluntarily and be dealt with on these days to sort out their fines and avoid further court action. The courts will have to deal with the more serious cases.'
He added that if people did not come to court on those days every enforcement officer in the county would be drafted in to help arrest people.
'People will face jail if they continue to default,' he warned. 'Prison is a last resort because we would much rather have the money.'
In Cheshire £8m is owed in fines, £4.5m of which is in arrears. In the Chester area alone £1.5m is outstanding, with £850,000 in arrears. Mr Birch said there were 6,000 individual fines and warrants for 1,000 individuals. He added that 340 warrants were issued every month for non-payers.
He added that it was the public that was ultimately affected by the non-payment.
'The money we are trying to collect is money due to the government's central pot. It is also collected to be used as compensation for victims of violence.
'Unpaid fines are a drain on the public purse. They can be blamed for increases in insurance premiums and general increases in cost.'
'It's an ongoing thing because if you go out in numbers and don't get them this week we might get them next week or the week after. Just because we knock once at the door doesn't mean we won't knock a second time at the door.'
He said officers even targeted people's places of work and pubs.
Mr Birch said people owed fines for a variety of reasons, from not having a TV licence and motoring offences to theft, assault, criminal damage and non-attendance at school.
He said he knew of one individual who owed almost £6,000 for 15 different fines.