FINE dodgers are facing imprisonment as the courts and police decide to get tough and close a loophole in the system.

Thousands of offenders who ignore warrants could find themselves brought back before magistrates for sentencing.

To kick-start the campaign, a pile of warrants have been collated so no one can escape without paying their fines.

The initiative, which combines the powers of Cleveland Police and Cleveland Magistrates' Court, will see people passing through the custody system being checked for outstanding warrants before a court enforcement officer fast-tracks them back to court.

Acting Inspector Caroline Foster, head of the prisoner handling team in Middlesbrough, said: "We know that, more often than not, people wanted on warrant pass through our custody system without the knowledge of the court."

Justices chief executive Colin Monson said the measures were part of a year-long campaign to bring fine dodgers to book.

He said: "The message is that fines are expected to be paid and the money will be collected. The ultimate sanction against people who won't pay is imprisonment.

"At present there is no electronic link between the police and the court database so, although the police have been aware of warrants issued in criminal cases, they may not have been aware that those arrested may have several warrants outstanding for non- payment of fines."