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Who pays the fine when a child breaks the law?

Stories about children getting into trouble with the law are nothing new. From vandalism to petty theft and anti-social behaviour, public outcry often demands that something be done. 

The law is only too happy to oblige – but often it’s the parents who pay the child’s debt to society. If an offender is under 18 when a fine or other financial penalty is levied, mom and dad usually get the bill.

When handing down sentences for a crime, youth courts have many options. Depending on the child’s age amongst other factors, fines, orders and penalties can be given under four categories:

  • First Tier Penalties
  • Community Penalties
  • Custodial Sentences
  • Ancillary Orders

First Tier penalties can include fines. The maximum fine for an offender  under 14 years of age is £250 in Youth Court sentencing. If the child is between the ages of 13 and 18, the maximum fine is £1,000.

The size of the fine depends in part on the seriousness of the offence and how much the youth can pay. If the child is under 16, the youth court is compelled to order that parents or guardians pay the fine.

Youth court fines can be levied at these levels based on the age of the child:

  • 10-13 years: A maximum fine of £250
  • 14 years: A maximum fine of £1000
  • 15 years: A maximum fine of £1000
  • 16-17 years: years: A maximum fine of £1000

Ancillary Orders can include an order to pay compensation in any case where there has been loss, injury, or damage as a result of the offence. 

The youth court can order the child to pay all or part of the prosecution’s costs (within reason). In the case of under 16s, parents or guardians will usually be ordered to pay.

If the child does not have much money, then a compensation order may be given preference over a fine or costs. The rules establishing responsibility for payment are the same as the rules outlined for fines or costs levied against under 16s’. Parents or guardians are expected to pay.

What happens when a parent is expected to pay?

The truth is that, fairly or unfairly, the cost of a child’s criminal behaviour can be considerable for parents. The youth courts do not carry out a means assessment of the parents to understand their financial situation or query their ability to pay a fine, costs, or other order.  

Even if the child becomes an adult and starts working, because the crime was committed while they were under 18, it’s still the parent who has to pay.

What if I can’t pay the fine?

If you receive a court fine because of a crime committed by your child, there is only so much you can do yourself to fight it. 

You might make a case for a reduction if you can provide evidence of low income and minimal assets. But if you find yourself with a summons for non-payment, unpaid court fines, or believe the fine to be unlawful, we may be able to help.

As a highly successful firm of criminal defence solicitors, we are experts at resolving such situations. Our advice is free and impartial, and if you wish, one of our fully-qualified solicitors may be able to represent you in court.

If you have a low income or are on benefits, after a successful application for legal aid, we may also be able to represent you free of charge.

For more information, contact us today on 0800 612 7128 (24hr) or visit https://www.cantpaymyfine.co.uk.