besidesThe information on this page is for residents of England and Wales only.
The magistrate court handles most of the criminal offenses in England and Wales. These include offenses regarding public orders, traffic offenses, unpaid TV licenses, and antisocial conduct. The common sanctions imposed by the magistrates are monetary penalties or fines.
Bear in mind that magistrates fines are classified as a priority debt. This is because culpable neglect can lead to severe consequences. In addition, the magistrates’ courts can also impose a liability order for council tax arrears and child support debts.
How are the magistrates’ fines imposed?
If you are determined guilty, the court will set fines as a punishment. You will be required to provide information concerning your income. Based on the details you provide, the amount is set under the following circumstances:
- Type of offense
- The severity of your case
- How much you can afford to pay
Moreover, you are obliged to attend the hearing and show proof of your financial situation. You can bring pieces of evidence showing your income and expenses every month including your benefits. If you’re having a hard time putting this together in place, contact us right away.
If you don’t attend the hearing, you might end up paying large fines that you cannot afford. The same thing can happen if you do not provide honest details regarding your finances. Though you can reduce your fines right after, doing this might be difficult. Aside from the fines, the court will also order to pay compensation or court fees.
How does the court collect fines?
The court will impose a collection order detailing how you can pay your fines. Most of the time, it can be in full payment, weekly or monthly installments, an attachment of earning (deducted from your wages) or be deducted from your benefits (DWP benefit).
What if I can’t afford court fines?
If you are unable to make payments to your court fines, you can write or contact the fines officer at the court and request to modify the amount. You can ask to reduce the amount ahead of time especially when there are changes that will surely affect your income.
If you’re paying using an attachment of earnings, it would be impossible to reduce the amount since it’s taken at a fixed rate. The fines officers are not guaranteed to agree to reduce your payments but your request may be forwarded to a magistrate or District Judge for the final verdict.
What happens if I miss payments?
If you do not pay your fines issue under the collection order, the fines officer will take further steps to recover the amount. Below are the common steps in practiced:
- setting an attachment of earnings or by taking out payments from your benefits
- sending enforcement agents or bailiffs to take out valuable goods to compensate fines
- a charging order to secure debt
The fines officer may also escalate your case to the magistrate or a District Judge for further steps to enforce such as:
- increasing the fine by 50%
- unpaid community service
- sending you to prison if you refuse to pay or failed to cooperate
Do I need to have a solicitor in a magistrates’ court?
For cases that are not severe, you may not need a solicitor. However, if the case concerns serious matter or you may be in prison if you disagree with the offense, you must get legal advice instead. The Criminal Law Solicitor’s Association can assist you in looking for a solicitor in your area. Depending on your conditions, you may necessitate paying for legal counsel.
Can I go to the penitentiary if I don’t pay my fine?
The answer is yes, depending on the circumstances.
Prison is normally only a hit if the court has worked all other means to recover the debt yet you refused to pay. Besides, the court can award a suspended committal to prison rather. This grants you one ultimate chance to repay the fine and prevent imprisonment. So, you must not take the second chance for granted. You have to be responsible enough in paying you fine to avoid prison.
We Can Help
We can help you create a budget that you can present during a court hearing. This way you’ll only be paying what you can actually afford.
However, if you’re currently paying a fine yet struggling to pay for it each month, we can also assist you in how you can manage it. Should you wish to speak via phone, call us on 0800 193 1024.