A POLICE chief today hailed a get-tough operation to recover thousands of pounds in unpaid fines and compensation from North Yorkshire's criminals.

Almost a dozen police and court enforcement officers took part in a series of raids yesterday at properties in Selby and nearby villages.

They arrested 12 men and women and seized cash totalling £2,695, equating to £1,500 in unpaid compensation and another £1,195 in fines.

Chief Inspector Barry Smith, Selby district commander, said the cash would now be paid into court accounts, and cheques would then be sent out to victims of crimes ranging from criminal damage to assault.

He said some of those arrested could be sent back to court and could be remanded in custody.

"It has been a major success," he said. "This is the largest scale operation of its kind in the Selby district and it means that £1,500 will now go out to victims of crime, as the courts intended."

He said the operation was a good example of co-operation between the police and court officials, led by senior court enforcement officer Andrew Tait, and it was such a success that it would probably be repeated.

Operation Payback, a national fines blitz, involving magistrates' courts committees and police, was first launched in 2004.

Seeking to recover compensation owed to victims of crime and the courts, the Government said then that it also sent a message out that non-payment would not be tolerated.

"Fines must be paid," said a spokesman for the Department for Constitutional Affairs. "It has proved extremely successful in recovering outstanding debt and increasing community awareness that unpaid fines will not be tolerated."

He said millions of pounds in fines had been recovered nationwide but there were other benefits,with experience showing that there would be an increase in fine payments after such operations. "It will also encourage potential evaders to pay their fines in full and on time."