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Criminal Proceedings etc. (Reform) (Scotland) Act 2007

Penalties as alternative to prosecution

Section 50: Fixed penalty and compensation offers

275.This section provides considerable changes in procedures relating to existing alternatives to prosecution, and introduces a new alternative to prosecution, to be known as the compensation offer. It makes significant amendments to sections 302 and 303 of the 1995 Act, and introduces a number of new sections to that Act. Sections 302 and 303 deal with conditional offers of a fixed penalty by prosecutors (generally known as “fiscal fines”).

Conditional offers – changes to procedures etc

276.Subsection (1)(a) amends section 302(2) of the 1995 Act, which covers the information which requires to be provided to the alleged offender in a conditional offer. The amendments take account of the revised procedure introduced by this Act. It is also made clear that an offer letter can stipulate that the whole penalty is to be paid in a single instalment.

277.Subsection (1)(c) inserts subsections (4A) - (4C) into section 302 of the 1995 Act. This effects a change to the way in which fixed penalties are administered. Acceptance of a conditional offer of a fixed penalty will now be either by making any payment in respect of the offer, or by taking no action in respect of the offer. Currently, an offer of a fixed penalty requires the suspected offender to take positive steps to accept it. The terms of these new subsections render subsections (5) and (6) of section 302 redundant, and these are repealed by subsection (1)(d) of this section.

278.Subsection (1)(b) makes a consequential amendment to section 302(4) of the 1995 Act, to oblige the clerk of court to notify the procurator fiscal whether or not the conditional offer has been rejected.

279.Subsections (1)(e), (f) and (g) amend the maximum level of a conditional offer from level 1 on the standard scale (presently £200) to £300. The Scottish Ministers are given power to further increase the maximum by order, subject to affirmative procedure.

280.Subsection (1)(h) inserts new subsections (8A) and (8B) into section 302 of the 1995 Act. Subsection (8A) raises a rebuttable presumption that the alleged offender has received a conditional offer if it is sent to: the address given by the alleged offender in relation to a recall application under section 302C(1) (see paragraphs 291 to 296 below); or to any address which the alleged offender has given to the clerk of court or the procurator fiscal in respect of that offer. Subsection (8B), in turn, raises a presumption in relation to the operation of section 141(4) of the 1995 Act, which covers the citation of accused persons to court. It provides that citation of the accused will be presumed to have been successfully effected if sent to the same address at which it can be proved the accused received a conditional offer, or at another address given by the accused in connection with that offer.

281.Subsection (1)(i) amends section 302(9) of the 1995 Act. It extends the range of offences for which conditional offers can be made. At present a conditional offer can be made in respect of any offence which can be tried in the district court. Subject to the exclusion of certain road traffic offences set out in section 302(9) of the 1995 Act, it will now be competent to make a conditional offer in relation to any offence which can be tried summarily.

New section 302A - compensation offer

282.Section 50(2) introduces three new sections into the 1995 Act (sections 302A to 302C). The first of these sections, 302A, creates compensation offers by the procurator fiscal and provides a mechanism for their operation. Many of the procedures are identical to, or similar to, those made for the operation of the new system which will apply to conditional offers of a fixed penalty.

283.A procurator fiscal is permitted by section 302A(1) to send a compensation offer to an alleged offender where it seems that a relevant offence has been committed. A relevant offence is defined in section 302A(13) as an offence which can be tried summarily, and for which a court could competently make a compensation order (section 49 and paragraphs 272 to 274 above refer). The offer document is required by section 302A(2) to give the accused similar information to that given in a conditional offer of a “fiscal fine”. This includes provision that the prosecutor can stipulate that payment of the whole amount is to be made in one instalment.

284.Section 302A(3) provides that a compensation offer can be made in respect of more than one relevant offence. Section 302A(4) obliges the clerk of court to advise the procurator fiscal whether notice has been given that the offer has been rejected. Sections 302A(5) and (6) provide that acceptance of an offer is deemed either if payment is made to the offer, or if the alleged offender takes no action to expressly reject it.

285.Section 302A(7) provides that if a compensation offer is accepted no prosecution can take place, and no conviction will be recorded.

286.Section 302A(8) and (9) provide that the maximum amount of a compensation offer is to be set by the Scottish Ministers, but that it is not to exceed level 5 on the standard scale (presently £5000).

287.Sections 302A(10) and 302A(11) make provision for presumption of service of further compensation offers and in respect of citations served in terms of section 141(4) of the 1995 Act. These are the same as those described at paragraph 280 above.

New section 302B – combined fixed penalty and compensation offer

288.Section 302B makes provision to allow prosecutors to make a conditional offer combining elements of both a fine and compensation. Any such offer will be regarded as a “combined offer”.

289.Section 302B(3) sets out the additional information which requires to be provided in a combined offer, which in terms of section 302B(2) requires to be in a single notice.

290.Section 302B(4) provides that acceptance of part of any such offer will be regarded as applying to the whole offer. This guards against the possibility that, faced with two separate offers of a fine and compensation for the same incident, the alleged offender will accept one and reject the other.

New section 302C – recall of fixed penalty or compensation offer

291.Section 302C provides a mechanism for recalling a “fiscal fine” offer or compensation offer. Section 302C(1) provides that the alleged offender can make a request for recall where s/he has taken no action in respect of the offer and it is deemed to have been accepted.

292.Section 302C(2) provides that recall of deemed acceptance can be sought where the alleged offender claims that s/he did not receive the offer; or where the offer was received but the alleged offender claims that it was not practicable because of exceptional circumstances for notice of refusal of the offer to be given. In both cases the alleged offender must also claim that the offer would have been refused.

293.Section 302C(3) provides that where the alleged offender wishes to apply to have the deemed acceptance recalled, s/he must apply to the clerk of court within certain time limits. However, section 302C(4) permits the clerk to consider a request for recall outwith those time limits on cause shown. In terms of section 302C(5), on receipt of an application for recall the clerk of court may either uphold or recall the offer.

294.Section 302C(6) gives the alleged offender the right to apply to the court which is specified in the offer for review of the clerk of court’s decision, and section 302C(7) gives the court power, in turn, to confirm or quash the clerk’s decision. Section 302C(8) provides that the court’s decision is final.

295.The clerk of court is obliged by section 302C(9) to inform the procurator fiscal of a request for recall, an application for review of the clerk’s decision, and any decision taken either by the clerk or the court in connection with the application.

296.Section 302C(10) provides that for the purposes of considering an application for recall the procurator fiscal can certify when the offer was sent.

Further provisions on enforcement

297.Section 50(3) makes further provision in relation to enforcement of alternatives to prosecution, and amends section 303 of the 1995 Act accordingly.

298.Subsection (3)(a) provides that, where an alternative to prosecution has been accepted, any outstanding amount is to be treated for enforcement purposes as if it were a fine imposed by the court.

299.Subsection (3)(b) provides that no action is to be taken to enforce a “fiscal fine” or compensation offer where acceptance has been deemed by the alleged offender’s lack of action, unless a notice is sent to the alleged offender explaining that enforcement action is to be taken, and outlining the recall procedure. Action can only be taken once any application for recall has been dealt with.

Section 51: Work orders
New section 303ZA – Work orders

300.This section inserts a new section 303ZA into the 1995 Act. It creates a new alternative to prosecution – the “work order” (which has also been referred to as the “fine on time” or “community fiscal fine”).

301.Section 303ZA(1) empowers a procurator fiscal to make a ‘work offer’ to an alleged offender who appears to have committed a relevant offence (defined in section 303ZA(16) as one which is triable summarily). This offer will give the alleged offender the option of performing a period of unpaid work where a monetary penalty such as a “fiscal fine” or a compensation offer are not deemed appropriate.

302.Section 303ZA(2) sets the minimum (10 hours) and maximum (50 hours) number of hours work that can be offered under a work offer. Section 303ZA(3) outlines the information which will require to be contained on the notice of offer. In many ways this is similar to the information which requires to be on the notice of offer of the two other alternatives to prosecution which are described above. The circumstances of the alleged offence, the amount of work which will require to be completed, the date by which the work will require to be completed, and the consequences of acceptance and completion of the offer all require to be in the offer.

303.Section 303ZA(4) permits the work offer to be made in respect of more than one offence, and subsection (5) provides details on what the alleged offender requires to do to accept the offer. Unlike the new system for “fiscal fines” and compensation offers, the work offer requires to be positively accepted by the alleged offender.

304.Section 303ZA(6) provides that if the offer is accepted, the procurator fiscal can then make a work order against the alleged offender. On doing so, the procurator fiscal must send a notice to the alleged offender that a work order has been made, containing details of the amount of work to be carried out and details of the person who is to supervise performance of the order (section 303ZA(7)). Section 303ZA(8) obliges the procurator fiscal to advise the supervising local authority of the imposition of an order.

305.Section 303ZA(9), (10) and (11) deal with the manner in which the supervising officer’s duties are to be discharged. The officer is to determine the nature, time and place of the work to be done, and give directions to the alleged offender regarding its performance. The officer is also to provide the procurator fiscal with details of the performance of the order. The purpose of this last provision is to allow the procurator fiscal to consider whether, in the event that the order is not completed satisfactorily, further action is appropriate. The officer is under a duty, as far as practicable, not to direct the alleged offender to carry out work which would hamper the alleged offender’s attendance at work or education, or which would conflict with the alleged offender’s religious beliefs.

306.Section 303ZA(12) provides that where the alleged offender completes the work required in the order s/he will not face prosecution for the alleged offence. In the event that the entire order is not completed satisfactorily, the procurator fiscal will have the option of prosecuting the alleged offender for the alleged offence giving rise to the work order, even if some work has been carried out under the order.

307.Section 303ZA(13) and (14) give the Scottish Ministers a regulation-making power to make specific provision in relation to specific aspects of work orders as set out in subsection (9). In particular the Scottish Ministers may specify what kind of work may or may not be undertaken.

308.Section 303ZA(15) makes provision for citation of the alleged offender in subsequent prosecution. The position is similar to that for “fiscal fines” and compensation offers. Citation will be presumed to have taken place if it is effected at the address at which the alleged offender is proved to have received an offer, or any other address provided by the alleged offender.

Section 52: Setting aside of offers and orders
New section 303ZB – Setting aside of offers and orders

309.This section inserts section 303ZB into the 1995 Act. It formalises the power of the procurator fiscal to set aside an offer of an alternative to prosecution of the types listed in section 303ZB(1).

310.Section 303ZB(2) provides that the procurator fiscal can set aside an offer of such an alternative to prosecution where s/he is satisfied that the offer should have not been made, on the basis of information which comes to his/her attention after the making of the offer.

311.Section 303ZB(3) confirms that this power applies even if the offer has been accepted or deemed to have been accepted.

312.Section 303ZB(4) obliges the procurator fiscal when exercising this power to advise the alleged offender that the offer has been set aside and that any liability to conviction for the alleged offence is discharged.

Section 53: Disclosure of previous offers

313.This section amends section 69 (notice of previous convictions), section 101 (previous convictions: solemn proceedings), and section 166 (previous convictions: summary proceedings) of the 1995 Act, and makes provisions governing the circumstances in which an offer of an alternative to prosecution can be disclosed to the court. To all intents and purposes the amendments to each section have an identical effect.

314.The primary purpose of these amendments is to allow the prosecutor to include in any notice of previous convictions, whether in a solemn or summary case, details of an alternative to prosecution which has been accepted (completed in the case of a work order) by the alleged offender in the two years preceding the date of the new offence under consideration.

315.In the case of the financial alternatives to prosecution – the “fiscal fine” and the compensation offer – the procurator fiscal can disclose details of these alternative disposals to the court whether the offer has been accepted by payment having been made, or whether acceptance has been deemed by the alleged offender taking no action in respect of the offer.

316.It is not intended that accepted “fiscal fines” or compensation offers, or completed work orders, should be regarded as criminal convictions for this or any other purpose. The relevant sections of the 1995 Act are all amended to make it clear that accepted alternatives to prosecution are to be regarded as “alternative disposals” for the purposes of this part of the Act.

317.In addition, the statute will now explicitly permit prosecutors, on conviction for an offence where an offer of an alternative to prosecution was made, to advise the court of the terms of any such offer.

Section 54: Time bar where offer made
New section 136B – time limits where fixed penalty offer etc. made

318.This section inserts a new section 136B into the 1995 Act. The purpose of this section is to alter the operation of time bar in statutory cases where an alternative to prosecution has been offered. It is intended that this will avoid the situation where the time spent in offering an alternative which is then declined makes it difficult or impossible to take proceedings within statutory time limits.

319.Section 136B applies to conditional offers, compensation offers and work offers. Section 136B(1) provides that in connection with conditional offers and compensation offers, for the purpose of calculation of any period of time bar, the period between the date of any offer of an alternative, and the date of refusal of the offer or date of recall of deemed acceptance, is to be disregarded.

320.In the case of work offers, section 136B(1)(c) provides that the period between the date of the offer and the last date for acceptance of the offer is to be disregarded where the offer is refused. In addition, where the offer is accepted but not completed the time between the date of the offer and the date specified for completion of the order is to be disregarded.

321.Section 136B(2) provides that a prosecutor can certify the period of time which is to be disregarded for these purposes.

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