The Magistrate's Blog (2005-2012)

This blog has migrated to www.magistratesblog.blogspot.co.uk This blog is anonymous, and Bystander's views are his and his alone. Where his views differ from the letter of the law, he will enforce the letter of the law because that is what he has sworn to do. If you think that you can identify a particular case from one of the posts you are wrong. Enough facts are changed to preserve the truth of the tale but to disguise its exact source.

My Photo
Location: Near London, United Kingdom

The blog is written by a retired JP, with over 30 years' experience on the Bench.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Fines Again

Sitting in a Fines Enforcement Court the other day we had 19 people appear before us, of whom two were working, the rest being in receipt of benefit. The politicians who are urging greater use of fines on us, and asking us to go easy on community orders and prison, ought to come and spend a morning with us one day.
As usual, there were a fair few TV Licence cases, every one a single mother, and most of them fined in their absence. When this happens the bench sets a fine based on average income, so once we had means information we reduced them to a manageable level, to be deducted from benefit at £5 per week. We cancelled outstanding fines where the defendant had served a prison sentence but had failed for one reason or another to get the fines 'lodged'. That's just the fines though - compensation remains payable after release.
One chap stunned us though. The fine was nine months overdue with nothing paid, and he had been brought in on a warrant. We went through the details, and I gave him my best glare over my specs and said: "This fine is due now. It has gone on long enough. Can you pay it today?" "Yes, Sir. I've got a card, I'll pay it now". Three judicial jaws dropped as the usher took him off to the office. Next year we will be getting card swipe machines in the courtroom. Most people, when asked if they have a card claim that it's maxed out, but we always give it a try anyway, and in nine cases out of ten it goes through all right.