Fines are recorded in the Domesday book
Recorded in the entry for Lewes:
A man who sheds blood pays a fine of 7s 4d.
A man who commits adultery or rape pays a
fine of 8s 4d, and a woman as much.
The King has [the penalty from] the
adulterous man, the archbishop [from] the woman.
From a fugitive, if he is retaken, 8s 4d.
The standard scale
Every criminal offence triable by magistrates has a
maximum fine fixed by law by reference to levels on the “standard scale”.
Magistrates may impose fines up to £5,000 there is no maximum
in the Crown Court.
The use of fines for indictable offences has
decreased in the last 10 years by 20%. Collection of fines has
proved difficult but now the MoJ claims that 81% of fines are now
No maximum fine for judges
Judges in the Crown Courts can impose a fine of any
The highest fine ever imposed was on 7th
October 2005 of £10 million (reduced to £7.5 million on appeal) on the
rail maintenance company Balfour Beatty.
Balfour Beatty was implicated in the
Hatfield train crash where 4 died 102 injured.
National Offender Management Service (NOMS)
(Do not confuse this Carter review with the
Carter Review on legal aid)
The Carter Review
More effective sentencing and pre-court diversion,
better management of fines, and tough community sentences and greater use
of electronic monitoring.
Carter also proposed the creation of NOMS
The aim is to ensure better partnership working
across prisons and probation - building on the improvements in the
services focused on the management of offenders throughout their sentence
with the aim to have maximum impact in terms of reduced re-offending.
NOMS will be broken up
NOMS has not been as successful as
the government had hoped. The findings of the
Organisational Review of the Ministry of Justice indicates that NOMS will be broken up and subsumed into other
parts of the Ministry of Justice. It is alleged the experiment
wasted over £2billion.
Powers to collect fines
The courts must ensure that the fine
reflects the seriousness of the offence and also takes account of the
offender’s means, reducing it or increasing it as a result.
Magistrates can arrange for "attachment of earnings
order" following imposition of fine or failure to pay.
Also now under
section 300 of CJA 2003, court has power to impose unpaid work or curfew
requirements on a fine defaulter, rather than sending them to prison.
Courts Act 2003
Courts Act 2003 primarily implements
of the recommendations contained in Sir Robin Auld's
Review of the Criminal Courts which the Government accepted, in the White
Paper "Justice for All" in 2002.
The effect of the Courts Act
Allows deductions from benefits to enforce payment
of fines. This is an advantage to the courts and the fine
Ensures prompt enforcement action
Increase in sanctions against those not willing or
not able to pay
Relieve magistrates of
essentially administrative matters in many cases
Offer a discount of 50% for prompt payment
Administer the fines
‘Further steps notices’
Can have the fine defaulters
vehicle clamped or other enforcement process applied
Wide powers to seize
£15 victim levy on all fines
Since March 207 courts have been able to impose a £15 flat-rate levy no
matter how big or small the fine.
The levy goes towards a fund to help improve services for victims of
The Domestic Violence,
Victims Act 2004 intended the levy to "rebalance" the criminal justice
system in favour of victims.
The levy is not added to fixed penalty notices.
Some argue that it is a stealth tax which applies to, for example,
motorists but not to rapists and burglars who are sent to prison.
Fixed penalty fines
Fixed penalties for crime, fine collection
and Penalty Notices for Disorder
In order to clamp down on anti-social behaviour
particularly associated with drunkenness the police have the
power to impose fixed penalty fines. The range of offences has
gradually been increased and now includes shoplifting.
Criminal Justice and Police
Act 2001 allows a constable and community warden to give a person aged
16 or over a penalty notice for a listed offence.
Offenders either pay the fine within 21 days, in
which case there is no criminal conviction recorded or they appear in
court and face having to pay one and a half times the original penalty
will be registered against them for enforcement as a fine.
The system is not operational in all parts of the UK,
and some fines go unpaid, but anecdotal evidence suggests that the police
are in favour of the scheme and that it works well in some areas.
The latest figures
Penalty Notices for Disorder
Statistics 2004 show that over 50% of notices issued are paid in
full without any court action.
Criticisms of PNDs
Ministry of Justice figures
illustrate the increase in the use of Penalty Notices for Disorder as an
alternative to formal police action.
2004 - 63,639 PNDs were issued
2005 - 146, 481 PNDs were issued
2006 - 192, 583 PNDs were issued
PNDs are intended to be a disposal available to police to deal with minor
The Police Superintendent’s Association has criticised the growth in the
use of PNDs as undermining public confidence in policing with offenders
such as shoplifters, appearing to "get off" with crimes whose cost to
shopkeepers or to public bodies may be many times greater than the £50 or
Those criticisms are supported by the Police Federation of England and
Wales. The Ministry of Justice records show that £486m worth of PNDs
issued have not been paid.
Discharge of Fines by Unpaid Work (Prescribed
Hourly Sum) Regulations 2004
The courts determine the number of hours of unpaid
work required to discharge a fine that is the subject of a work order. In
2004 it was set at £6.
Advantages of fines
Persons who are fined have a lower
re-offending rate, but many fines are imposed on those that consider fines
part of their operating costs, for example prostitutes. Fines bring
income to the exchequer, but this is small.
Fines are favoured because they cause little
disruption to the individual his family and his work. The advantage to
the police of fixed penalty notices include the huge reduction in
paperwork and time wasted in custody suites and at court.
Disadvantages of fines
On the other hand, there are very high levels of non
payment and 20% are never paid at all. Wilful or repeated non-payment can
lead to imprisonment for minor matters for example not having a TV
Many people cannot or simply will not pay because
they have no job or are already in debt.
There is unfairness in fining the rich the same
amount as the poor, this is being addressed and unit fines are to be
reintroduced. (These have existed before but stopped following
problems with the system)
Often seen by professional criminals as “worth the
risk”, the typical fine for shoplifting is often less than the value of
Fines imposed other than by courts
Bodies other than criminal courts can impose fines, for example the Office
of Fair Trading (OFT).
In July 2007, the OFT ordered British Airways to pay record £121.5m
penalty in price fixing investigation, after the airline admitted
collusion over the price of 'long-haul passenger fuel surcharges'
The penalty was the highest ever imposed by the OFT for infringements of
The European Commission fined Microsoft 500 million Euros in 2004.