What You Need To Know
When you get found guilty in Magistrates’ Court, you may be issued with a fine as part of the conviction.
The amount of a fine is usually set by stature and is announced at the outset of the case. Then again, sometimes the amount is decided after careful deliberation of the facts of a case, including the seriousness of the offence and mitigating factors.
Offences which carry the sentence of a fine rather than a custodial sentence include:
- Minor driving offences (or not paying a Fixed Penalty Notice)
- Non-payment of a TV licence
- Non-payment of Transport for London fares
- Non-payment of council tax
- Minor criminal damage
- Some public order offences
Though please note that some more serious criminal offences can also carry a fine element as part of their sentence too.
If you have been wrongly convicted or the court payments too much you should
contact us as soon as you can.
What do I do once I am given a court fine?
If you receive a summons to a Magistrates’ Court, you will see that attached to it is a Form MC100 titled: ‘Statement of Means and other Financial Services’.
This form (also called a Means Enquiry Form) is used to disclose your financial situation. That is to say, what assets or savings you have and what your monthly income and outgoings are. If you are in receipt of benefits or on a low income it is especially important that you complete this form…
…Because doing so will aid your case.
As well as the facts of the case, the MC100 is used by the court to determine the level of the fine and sometimes a period of time in which it should be paid (i.e. your disclosure may prevent you from having to pay the fine in full immediately).
During your trial you will again be given an opportunity to disclose your financial position to the judge. This will aid their decision about the amount of the fine.
In order to make a good case for not paying in full straight away, or paying reduced monthly payments, you will want to make sure the MC100 is taken into account. If the court’s fine leaves you with little money for other priority debts, you will end up with even more problems.
Leslie Franks can help you put together a budget and if need be present your concerns to the court.
With our help you may also be able to have the fine written off or, at the very least:
- Reduce the amount of your instalments
- Extend the period of time in which the fine is to be paid
- Suspend the payment of the fine until you are more financially buoyant
After you have been sentenced the magistrates will organise what’s called a ‘collection order’ (or Notice of Fine). They will share this with you while you are in court and also send a copy to your home address.
The collection order details the following:
- The amount of the fine and any additional court payments
- Terms of payment (instalments or full amount within 10 days)
- The court’s order for an attachment to earnings or benefits
- The possible increase in the fine in the event of a missed court fine payment
By what method can I pay my court fine?
The court is aware that you haven’t the means to pay your fine in full you may be able to pay in instalments.
Here is a section from the Sentencing Guidelines Council which a Magistrates’ Court will use to determine over what length of time a fine should be paid:
A court will allow payments to be made over a period set by the court:
- If periodic payments are allowed, the fine should normally be payable within a maximum of 12 months. However, it may be unrealistic to expect those on very low incomes to maintain payments for as long as a year;
- Compensation should normally be payable within 12 months. However, in exceptional circumstances it may be appropriate to allow it to be paid over a period of up to 3 years.
You can pay your court fine by credit or debit card by telephone: 0300 790 9901 (in England) or 0300 790 9980 (in Wales), via the GOV.UK Court Fines website, using a Cash Payment Card or by Direct Debit.
What are the pros and cons of paying in instalments?
We have seen that if you can convince the court that paying off small amounts of the fine at regular intervals better suits your financial health then you may be allowed to pay by instalments.
Instalment payments allow you to budget more effectively. In turn, breaking the fine into smaller pieces should leave you the necessary means to take care of other priority debts such as your council tax, mortgage or rent.
However, there are advantages to settling court payments in full (if you can afford to): namely, you wouldn’t be in danger of forgetting to pay nor would you have the worry of the debt hanging over you.
Missed court fine payments will lead to more serious problems.
How do I check what is owed?
If you end up paying by instalments it is worth keeping a record of how much you have paid and on what dates. The court will keep its own record, but mistakes can and do happen, and a simple written note of your court fine balance may just help in the long run.
If you want to find out how much of your fine is still owed you can call the court where you received the fine.
What if I can’t afford to pay the instalments?
If, following your conviction, your circumstances change to hinder your paying a fine under the agreed terms you must contact the sentencing court’s fines officer as soon as you can.
Be aware: in some regions the job of the fines officer is performed by an enforcement team. This is made up of people who are trained to deal with your situation just as a fines officer would.
The copy of the collection order sent to you after your trial will tell you who you need to contact.
Your contact with the fines officer is important; what you say affects your long-term prospects. In order for the terms to be reviewed you will be expected to prove that things have taken a turn for the worse and to provide evidence of your inability to pay.
If you need advice on how to broach the subject of money with the court,
contact Leslie Franks to see if we can help.
You should contact the fines office before your first payment is due: you will find yourself in a sticky situation if you’re hit with a missed court fine payment.
If the fines officer refuses your request for a reduced level of instalments you will have 10 days to lodge an appeal against their decision with the magistrates’ court.
What if I don’t pay?
Refusing to pay a court fine will not only cause you major problems but will also have life-changing consequences for those around you.
Deliberate non-payment of a court fine solves nothing since any fine remains in force as long as it is unpaid. The court will simply issue a non-payment of fines warrant and keep the case live.
Courts demanding payment in England and Wales can impose the following sanctions on someone who refuses to pay a fine:
- The fine can be increased by 50%
- The fine is registered on their credit history for five years
- A percentage of the fine may be taken directly from their benefits or wages
- Bailiffs can be called to their address to seize goods
- The convicted can be ordered to undertake community work
- The convicted can be sent to prison
In Scotland the courts also have the right to take money from someone’s bank account or have their car impounded.
Leslie Franks Criminal Defence Lawyers
To make contact with a court to re-arrange your collection order is a tricky and sometimes fraught business. It can often be handled more effectively by a professional lawyer.
Making a case for a reduction in your instalments involves the supply of evidence that needs to be accurate and truthful, well-considered and worthy.
With being a highly successful company of criminal defence solicitors, we are hot-wired to represent our clients’ best interests and ensure that any sentence is just. Our advice is free and impartial and if you so wish you can be represented in court by one of our fully-qualified solicitors.
For the purposes of guidance relating to court fine payments, our services to you can include:
- Presenting the court with a valid change of circumstances
- Organising and presenting to the court a budget
- Making a plea for a fine to be suspended
We may even be able to help you overturn a fine by way of an appeal.
And if you have a low income or are on benefits we may also be able to represent you, after an application for legal aid.
For more information contact us today on 0800 6127 128 (24hr) or visit: http://www.lesliefranks.com.