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Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012

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38 of the Schedule (for example to issue a warrant of distress, which may be a replacement for a warrant previously withdrawn, or to make an attachment of earnings order).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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