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Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012

Fines
Section 85: Removal of limit on certain fines on conviction by magistrates’ court

461.Section 85 removes limits on fines of £5,000 or more (however that amount is expressed) on conviction by the magistrates’ court. The section applies to fines set out in primary and secondary legislation. The section also modifies powers to create offences which are punishable on summary conviction by a fine with a limit of £5,000 or more, so that they are punishable by a fine of any amount. The section gives the Secretary of State a power to disapply the removal of limits and to set alternative limits, subject to certain restrictions. The section applies to sentences on summary conviction, i.e. on conviction in a magistrates’ court for an offence which is triable only summarily or triable either way (see subsection (16)).

462.Subsection (1) provides that relevant offences which are punishable on summary conviction by fines of £5,000 or more (however that sum is expressed), are punishable by a fine of any amount. Where the maximum amount of a fine which may be imposed on summary conviction is £5,000, that sum is expressed in different provisions in different ways. In some cases the amount is expressed as the specific figure of £5,000. In some cases it is expressed as ‘an amount not exceeding the prescribed sum,’ or ‘the statutory maximum,’ or ‘level 5 on the standard scale.’ In each case the amount is £5,000. This subsection applies in respect of each of those formulations, and any other formulation which has the same effect.

463.Subsection (2) provides that where a relevant power could be exercised to create an offence punishable on summary conviction by a fine of £5,000 or more, the power may be exercised to create an offence punishable by a fine of any amount.

464.Subsection (3) provides that an offence or power is relevant if it is a common law offence or it is contained in an Act or secondary legislation immediately before subsection (1) of this section comes into force. It is a relevant offence or power whether or not it is in force at that time.

465.Subsection (4) sets out a series of limitations on the provisions in subsections (1) and (2). These limitations relate to fines for offences committed before the day on which subsection (1) of this section comes into force, to the operation of restrictions on fines that may be imposed on a person under 18, and to fines imposed by a Crown Court following committal for sentence from the magistrates’ court, where the Crown Court is exercising its own sentencing jurisdiction.

466.Subsection (5) gives the Secretary of State powers by regulations to disapply subsection (1) or (2). Subsection (6) gives the Secretary of State power by regulations to make alternative provision in respect of offences or powers in respect of which the power in subsection (5) is exercised.

467.Subsections (7) and (8) deal with the situation where a fine is expressed as a proportion of £5,000 (however expressed). For instance, some offences under the Companies Act 2006 contain offences punishable by a fine of an amount per day not exceeding 10% of the statutory maximum. The Secretary of State may make regulations to specify or describe a higher amount than £5,000 for these purposes

468.Subsection (9) imposes the same limitations in respect of regulations under section 85 as are imposed by subsection (4) (described above).

469.Subsections (10) and (11) make further provision about the scope of the powers to make regulations in this section.

470.Subsections (12) and (13) provide that regulations made under this section are to be made by statutory instrument, using the affirmative resolution procedure.

471.Subsection (14) makes particular provision to deal with the possibility that the power under the Criminal Justice Act 1982 to raise the sum specified as level 5 on the standard scale to reflect increases in the value of money may be exercised before the day on which subsection (1) of this section comes into force. It provides that, if that happens, references in this section to £5,000 have effect as if they were references to the new sum.

Section 86: Power to increase certain other fines on conviction by magistrates’ court

472.Section 86 makes provision in relation to fines or maximum fines of fixed amounts which are less than £5,000. (Such fines are not affected by section 85(1) or (2). Nor are they affected by the powers in section 88, which only relate to amounts expressed as levels 1 to 4 on the standard scale.)

473.Subsections (1) and (2) provide that the Secretary of State may make regulations in respect of relevant offences which are punishable by a fine of a fixed amount (i.e. a sum set out as a figure in the legislation) of less than £5,000. The regulations may specify or describe an amount in place of the original amount.

474.Subsections (3) and (4) provide that the Secretary of State may make regulations in respect of powers to create offences which are punishable by a fine of a fixed amount (i.e. a sum set out as a figure in the legislation) of less than £5,000. The regulations may specify or describe an amount in place of the original amount.

475.Subsection (5) provides that the amount which may be specified or described may not exceed the greater of £5,000 or the sum specified as level 4 on the standard scale. (Section 88 gives the Secretary of State powers to amend levels 1 to 4 on the standard scale.)

476.Subsection (6) sets out a series of limitations on the powers in this section. These limitations relate to fines for offences committed before the day on which section 85(1) comes into force, to the operation of restrictions on fines that may be imposed on a person under 18, and to fines imposed by a Crown Court following committal for sentence from the magistrates’ court, where the Crown Court is exercising its own sentencing jurisdiction.

477.Subsections (7) and (8) make further provision about the scope of the powers to make regulations in this section.

478.Subsections (9) and (10) provide that regulations made under this section are to be made by statutory instrument, using the affirmative resolution procedure.

479.Subsection (11) makes particular provision to deal with the possibility that the power under the Criminal Justice Act 1982 to raise the sum specified as level 5 on the standard scale to reflect increases in the value of money may be exercised before the day on which section 86(1) comes into force. It provides that, if that happens, references in this section to £5,000 have effect as if they were references to the new sum.

Section 87: Power to amend standard scale of fines for summary offences

480.Section 87 gives the Secretary of State power by order to alter the sums specified as levels 1 to 4 on the standard scale of fines for summary offences.

481.Subsection (1) provides that the Secretary of State may by order substitute for the sums specified as levels 1 to 4 on the standard scale, such sums as the Secretary of State considers appropriate. Level 1 is currently £200, level 2 is £500, level 3 is £1,000 and level 4 is £2,500.

482.Subsection (2) prevents the Secretary of State from altering the sums in a way which alters the ratio of the levels to each other.

483.Subsections (5) and (6) provide that orders made under this section are to be made by statutory instrument, using the affirmative resolution procedure.

484.Subsection (7) provides that an order altering the sums does not affect fines for offences committed before the order comes into force.

Section 88: Withdrawal of warrants of control issued by fines officer

485.Section 88 relates to the withdrawal of “warrants of control”, as the current warrants of distress will be termed when the provisions in Part 3 of the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 come into force (until then, they will continue, by way of transitional saving, to be termed warrants of distress). Section 88 makes a number of amendments to Schedule 5 of the Courts Act 2003 including the insertion of four new paragraphs.

486.Section 88(4) inserts a new paragraph 37A into Schedule 5 to the Courts Act 2003. Paragraph 37A allows a fines officer, in certain circumstances, to issue a replacement notice indicating an intention to take further action under paragraph 38 of the Schedule (for example to issue a warrant of distress, which may be a replacement for a warrant previously withdrawn, or to make an attachment of earnings order). Paragraph 37A also allows for an appeal against the replacement notice to be made to the magistrates’ court within 10 working days.

487.Section 88(8) inserts a new paragraph 40A, into Schedule 5 to the Courts Act 2003. Paragraph 40A provides fines officers with the power to withdraw warrants that they have issued, in specified circumstances. A fines officer may withdraw a warrant of control if there is an outstanding sum due and if the fines officer is satisfied that the warrant was issued by mistake (which in this context will include a mistake made in consequence of the non-disclosure or misrepresentation of a material fact).

488.Section 88(8) also inserts a new paragraph 40B into Schedule 5 to the Courts Act 2003. Paragraph 40B provides magistrates’ courts with a power to discharge a distress warrant issued by a fines officer (the court presently has power under section 142(1) of the Magistrates’ Court Act 1980 to discharge its own warrant, but not to discharge one issued by a fines officer). If the fines officer has issued a distress warrant and refers the case to the magistrates’ court the court may discharge the warrant if there is an outstanding amount to be paid and the power conferred by section 142(1) of the 1980 Act would have been exercisable by the court if the court had issued the warrant. In other words, the court is now able to reopen the case to rectify mistakes, if the distress warrant had been issued by a fines officer, in the same way it can do so if the warrant was issued by the court.

489.Section 88(8) inserts a new paragraph 40C into Schedule 5 to the Courts Act 2003. Paragraph 40C places duties on fines officers where a warrant of control has been withdrawn or discharged. Where the warrant has been withdrawn by the fines officer or discharged by the court and the court has not discharged a collection order, then the fines officer must take (or retake) one or more of the steps specified in a further steps notice, or deliver a replacement notice and take one or more steps specified in that notice, or refer the case to (or back to) the magistrates’ court.

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