A Fine Mess: Court Fines, Bailiffs and Imprisonment for Non-Payment
Many defendants who appear in the Magistrates Court receive a fine, particularly for road traffic offences. In the Crown Court, while a fine is not the most common punishment meted out, when they are imposed they tend to be very large.
Do I have to pay the fine all at once?
Sometimes a court will order full payment (and may give a period of time for this to be completed), but in many cases, the court can order that you pay in instalments, usually weekly or monthly.
You will not be given time to pay (and can be sent to prison straightaway if a fine isn’t paid) if:
(a) in the case of an offence punishable by imprisonment, you appear to the judge to have sufficient means to pay straightaway;
(b) it appears to the judge that you are unlikely to remain long enough at an address in the UK to allow the payment of the fine to be enforced in other ways; or
(c) at the same time that the fine is imposed, the judge sends you to prison.
What happens if I do not pay?
If you wilfully refuse to pay the fine, and all other enforcement options have been exhausted, you will be ordered to serve the default term in prison. That can vary from 7 days for a fine of up to £200, to 10 years where the fine is more than £1 million.
Before you get to that point, bailiffs will have become involved. They can seize property belonging to you to the value of the fine. They also add their own charges, which are often more than the original fine.
It is therefore very important that you make contact with your solicitor if your financial circumstances change and you are unable to pay a financial penalty. It is always better to try and resolve difficulties earlier than wait for enforcement proceedings to commence.
I would sooner serve the time than pay the fine, is that possible?
Yes and no!
If you do not pay, then you will go to prison, but this does not extinguish the penalty. If the authorities later find that you have the means to pay the fine, action can still be taken to recover the monies.
How we can assist
The law concerning non-payment of fines and other financial penalties is complicated. This article is intended to give only a very brief overview of the issues involved.
If you have any concerns or wish to discuss any aspect of your case, please contact John Howey, on 02073881658 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note that the information contained in this article was correct at the time of writing. There may have been updates to the law since the article was written, which may affect the information and advice given therein.