Magistrate's Court fines

Magistrates’ Court fines can be ordered for offences such as not paying your bus/train fare, traffic offences, criminal offences and not having a TV licence.

Debts such as mortgage arrears, bank loans, credit cards and so on are not dealt with by the Magistrates Court, you cannot be fined nor go to prison for not paying back money you borrowed.

If you have a hearing at the Magistrate's Court


If you have a hearing at the Magistrates Court, it is important that you go. For information about the court, use the Court Finder. Take a copy of your financial statement and proof of income. If you are fined, the magistrates will order you to pay immediately, by a set date, or by regular instalments, depending on your means they may order payments to be deducted direct from your earnings or benefit.
Magistrates Court fines are a priority debt because of the far reaching powers the Magistrates’ Court has to collect them.




What collection powers does the Magistrates Court have?

If you do not pay a fine as ordered, the court fines officer may send the debt to the bailiffs, order your car to be clamped or arrange payments to be taken direct from your earnings or benefit. If they believe you could have afforded to pay, they can increase the fine by 50%.

What can I do if the fine is with the bailiffs?

While the fine is with the bailiffs, you cannot pay through the court. Bailiffs collecting the fine have the right to enter your home, even if you do not invite them in. Offer to pay the bailiffs what you can afford, but they will probably want the debt paid quickly. If you cannot pay what the bailiffs are demanding, you can ask the court for a means enquiry, see below. If you are getting one of the benefits from which deductions can be made, see below, tell the court.

Might it be best if payments are taken direct from my benefit?

If you get Income Support, Employment Support Allowance, Pension Credit or income-based Jobseekers’ Allowance, the Magistrates’ Court may be able to ask the DWP to take £5 a week direct from your benefit. If you are getting one of these benefits, make sure the court knows.

How much can be taken from my earnings?

This is worked out as a proportion of your earnings. The rates are set nationally and the amount deducted can be high, depending on how much you earn.

What happens at a means enquiry hearing?

Pay as much as you can before the hearing. It is important that you go, otherwise you could be arrested. Take any money you can afford to pay on the day, a copy of your financial statement and any proof you have of your income since you first owed the money.

The magistrates look at why you have not paid and whether you could have paid at any time since you had the debt. They also look at what you are offering and how long this would take to clear the debt. The magistrates most frequently make an order to pay. This means that, as long as you make the payments ordered, no further action is taken. If payment would cause you extreme hardship, the magistrates can write off all or part of the fine. Or, if the magistrates find that you did not pay despite being able to, they can order your imprisonment. 

What can I do if my circumstances then change?

If you can no longer afford the payments ordered because, for example, you have lost your job or are not getting paid while off sick, ask the Magistrates’ Court for another hearing. When you go to the hearing, take proof of how your circumstances have changed.



If you are sorting out debt problems, start at the beginning of this guidance, otherwise you may miss valuable information.

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