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Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 2011

Chapter 1 - Penalty Notices

This Chapter creates a power for police to dispose of certain prescribed offences, without a direction from the PPS, aimed at giving a first-time or non-habitual offender a notice offering the opportunity to discharge his liability for that offence by paying a penalty notice within 28 days (“the suspended enforcement period”).

Section 59: Penalty offences and penalties

This section brings in Schedule 4 which lists the offences which can attract a penalty notice and the amount payable in relation to that offence. Offences which attract a £40 penalty are indecent behaviour (urination) in any street, road, highway or other public place, or in any place to which the public have access; and being drunk in any road or other public place. Offences with an £80 penalty are theft (guidance will state this is for first-time shoplifting only); criminal damage (i.e. destroying, damaging or intending to do so to any property belonging to or being reckless as to whether any such property would be destroyed or damaged); disorderly behaviour in any public place; behaviour likely to cause a breach of the peace in a public place; and assaulting, resisting, obstructing or impeding a constable in the execution of his duty.

The penalty payable in respect of a penalty offence may not exceed one quarter of the maximum fine for which a person is liable on summary conviction of the offence. Penalty notices are also subject to the offender levy provisions in this Act.

The Department may amend Schedule 4 by an affirmative resolution order of the Assembly.

Section 60: Penalty notices

This section defines a “penalty notice” as a notice offering the opportunity to discharge any liability to be convicted of the offence to which the notice relates by paying a fixed penalty. Penalty notices are issued by the police to a person over the age of 18.

Section 61: Form of penalty notice

This section dictates that a penalty notice must state the alleged offence; specifics about the alleged offence so as to provide reasonable information about it; specify the period before prosecution will be brought about (suspended enforcement period); the amount of the penalty, to whom and where the penalty must be paid; and inform the alleged offender of the right to request a trial.

Section 62: Effect of penalty notice

This section states that if the alleged offender requests to be tried for the alleged offence then proceedings may be brought against them. The request to be tried must be made in the manner specified in the notice within the suspended enforcement period. If the suspended enforcement period elapses and the person has neither requested to be tried nor paid the amount then the sum of the notice is increased by 50% and the penalty may be registered as a court fine.

Section 63: General restrictions on prosecution

This section sets out the restrictions on prosecution. No proceedings can be brought within the suspended enforcement period, which is 28 days from the date on which the notice was given, unless the individual requests to be tried. If the penalty is paid before the end of the suspended enforcement period no proceedings may be brought for the offence.

Section 64: Guidance

This section allows the Department of Justice to issue guidance about issuing penalty notices; about the exercise of the discretion given to police officers; and with a view to encouraging good practice in connection with the operation of the provisions of Chapter 1.

Section 65: Payment of penalty

This section sets out the procedure for payment of a penalty. The payment must be made to, or at an office of, the fixed penalty clerk specified in the penalty notice. Where payment is made by post, this is to be done by addressing, pre-paying and posting a letter to the fixed penalty clerk containing the penalty notice and the amount of the penalty. Sums paid by way of a penalty for an offence shall be treated as if they were fines imposed on summary conviction of that offence. The fixed penalty clerk is the clerk of petty sessions or such other persons as the Department of Justice may by order direct.

Section 66: Registration certificates

This section comes into effect if a person either does not pay their penalty notice or requests to be tried within the suspended enforcement period. In this instance the Chief Constable, or a person authorised by him, may issue a certificate stating that the sum can be registered as a fine. This certificate must be issued to the fixed penalty clerk.

Section 67: Registration of penalty

This section states that the fixed penalty clerk must upon receiving a certificate under section 66 register a sum in default for enforcement as a court fine. Once registered as a fine the individual who received the penalty notice is given a notice of registration specifying the amount and date for payment alongside information with respect to the offence. It will be treated as a court fine and therefore attract the normal payment and enforcement methods such as payment by instalments; extra time to pay; or any of the sanctions available for fine default.

The Department can make regulations with respect to the enforcement of payment of sums registered under this section as it considers appropriate.

Section 68: Challenge to notice

This section applies where a person who has received a notice of registration of a sum under section 67 for enforcement as a fine, makes a declaration within 21 days (or outside that period at the discretion of the court) that they were not the person to whom the relevant penalty notice was given, or that they gave notice requesting to be tried. If the person is not the individual to whom the penalty notice was issued the registration as a fine and any other proceedings made will be void. If the person requested to be tried within the specified period then the registration of the fine is void and the case shall be treated as if the person requested to be tried as stated.

Section 69: Setting aside of sum enforceable under section 67

This section allows a court of summary jurisdiction to void the penalty notice, the registration as a fine; and any proceedings related to the alleged offence if it considers it is in the interests of justice to do so. It also allows the court to set aside the registration as a fine and to treat the case as if the person concerned had given notice requesting to be tried in respect of the offence.

Section 70: Interpretation of this Chapter

This section defines some of the terms used in this Chapter.

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Text created by the Northern Ireland Assembly department responsible for the subject matter of the Act to explain what the Act sets out to achieve and to make the Act accessible to readers who are not legally qualified. Explanatory Notes accompany all Acts of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

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