On his excellent blog Wales World Nation,* Jeff Rees gives an example of a fair system of fines that exists in Norway.
A millionaire real-estate magnate and art dealer from Setesdal in southern Norway has been fined NOK 425,000 (USD 85,000) for drunk driving, and been further required to chop wood for 30 days.
In the fall of 2006, Kjetil Uleberg, 55, had enjoyed an evening with his friends drinking red wine until past midnight. The next morning, he got into his car to drive to a business meeting. When he was stopped by the police, he was required to take a breath test, which showed him to have a blood alcohol level of 0.7. The legal limit in Norway is 0.2.
In Norway, fines for drunk driving are based on the driver’s income, which meant Uleberg ended up with a whopper of a bill for his hangover.
If I remember rightly, Mrs Thatcher's government trialed such a fair fines policy in England & Wales, where offenders were fined points rather than pounds. The amount you paid per point was based on your income.
Unfortunately the trial failed. Those who could afford good accountants to "prove" that they had little or no income to pay tax on, used the same accounts to prove that they should pay the lowest level of pounds per point if they were fined. Those who were too poor to pay accountants paid the most pounds per point.
It may be an iniquity of the capitalist system, but it is a fact that a person who is £5 million pounds in debt is richer than the person with £500 in savings in all aspects of financial life other than accountancy.
I would be interested to know how (or if) the Norwegian system overcomes this accounting problem.
(* Jeff translates his site's title as Cymru Gwlad Fydol which actually means Wales a Worldly Nation. Worldliness is a sin Cymru - Gwlad Byd Eang might be a more appropriate translation).