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I was in Court today and heard a case that involved a debtor with a Court fine, this was in the enforcement stage from a few years ago.

 

 

Whilst watching this case I was intrigued that the defendant (D) was able to successfully swear the SD. The reason this was more interesting than normal was this was a fine for a traffic offence more than 18 months ago and was at the enforcement stage.

 

 

The defendant was shocked that the first they knew of the debt was when the EA came calling. Good friends advised the debtor to make an SD. This was heard today. The bench in its wisdom made the following comments,

 

  1. Reheard the means form (MC100) not heard at the first hearing
  2. Bench asked if D would have pleaded guilty and paid the fine if they had attended that day, D said yes
  3. The bench reduced the fines and costs to monies already paid to the EA.
  4. Said to D your fine is now paid in full and you owe us nothing.
  5. Due to the bench rehearing the case it in fact noted that D had paid over what was due with their new levels of fines. But said they could not return the extra money at the moment.
  6. The bench at no time asked D if they had received the further steps notice.

 

 

D had made an arrangement to pay the EA but never had a CGA in place.

 

 

Now this is where it gets interesting, since the original fine has now been changed and that all payments to the EA been accepted by the Court as payment in full. But, as this case had gone out to enforcement can the EA still claim the fees added to date? Then bench said to D that they were to inform the EA that the case has now been reheard and that any monies due to the Court are now paid in full.

 

 

Since the case has now been reheard and all monies due to the Court are paid , but, minus the EA's fees can the EA' still go after the fees that have been due to this point?

 

 

I believe not, due to a new hearing and a new outcome which in all respect has put the case back to the equivalent to the day of the original case. Therefore now enforcement cannot be continued and in this case the EA has to abide by the new hearing results. Can the EA now go after the fees that have already be added? I think not. As the reason for the enforcement has now ceased due to the new hearing.


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I would say that whilst the EA's may "try it on" they haven't a chance, providing the Debtor is clued up.

 

The Bench have effectively reset the debt back to the start, before Enforcement Action commenced, so the Debtor logically cannot owe any EA fees, it will I suspect be up to the EA's to negotiate with the MOJ how much of paid monies is retained in fees, and paid in the fine. It really is time that the Postal system for Magistrates Summons be upgraded from "send it in the post 2nd or 1rd class and consider it served, despite the many problems with the postal service losing mail, delivering late etc"

 

I would make it that all summons are either sent by Recorded Delivery, or Each Court send their Admins out every week hand delivering, and taking a photo, writing a quick signed statement showing summons delivered. The Cost of either can simply be added to the "Costs" when/if the Suspect is found or pleads guilty.

 

Interestingly, on the excellent Magistrate's Blog, they often encounter people who are vulnerable or in severe poverty and have collected one, two or 3 fines, most often iirc for TV Licence, and the Bench in question after examining the Debtor will often write off the preceeding fines, issue a new one that is far more affordable to someone on benefits etc, and send them on the way, but with dire warnings of what will happen if they miss paying the new one.


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What makes this even more interesting is the fact the debtor had paid some money to the EA, to stop them gaining entry, and a further payment the next day. Then making the SD today, so all in all very different to the normal SD


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On a second thought regarding post #2 if you have already attended Court then the usher normally hands out a form to the defendant giving them details of what fines have just been put to them, it is cases that allow the debtor to plead by post that slip through the gaps. Which bring us to notification of fines for these groups of people, the non attendees, that is to be notified by traceable mail then maybe the Courts would see less of this in the long run?


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On a second thought regarding post #2 if you have already attended Court then the usher normally hands out a form to the defendant giving them details of what fines have just been put to them, it is cases that allow the debtor to plead by post that slip through the gaps. Which bring us to notification of fines for these groups of people, the non attendees, that is to be notified by traceable mail then maybe the Courts would see less of this in the long run?

 

In the absence of a perfect postal system, not to mention the admin errors that will happen in any large organisation it would make far more sense. Even if it was just the Police whilst out on patrol dropping an official letter off - when the Police are taking you to the Magistrates for a low key but fineable offence they dont rely on sending a letter in the normal post, they usually tell you in person, it makes common sense to put in place systems or processes to ensure people likely to face a fine actually know about the thing - many people would likely pay straight away if they knew about it, rather than finding out 6 months or a year later, when enforcement fees or changed circumstances make it unaffordable for them to pay.

 

I wonder if the fact that the Debtor in this case made that payment to the EA is why the bench have done what they did - as it means not only did he just say he would have paid the fine straight away had he been aware of it, but the fact he made payments to the EA back up his statement with fact, that he is willing to pay, its possible without those 2 payments showing willing, the hearing may have ended slightly differently.


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This is a valid point, but again its down to the correct notifications really, I feel sorry for those in this position and only finding this out some time down the line. Maybe this is the right time to get the issues of notifications and the such sorted out once and for all. or it may be seen as a funds gathering exercise?

 

 

Yes fines and the such should be paid but if like in this case the mail goes adrift for whatever reason then this should be taken into account. Not only do some services use normal mail some use services other than RM. Getting a standard in place these days is a must especially with huge fines being increased by the new Courts Costs fees now?


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The EA may well try it on, but the ex debtor would have to refer them to the court.


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This is a valid point, but again its down to the correct notifications really, I feel sorry for those in this position and only finding this out some time down the line. Maybe this is the right time to get the issues of notifications and the such sorted out once and for all. or it may be seen as a funds gathering exercise?

 

 

Yes fines and the such should be paid but if like in this case the mail goes adrift for whatever reason then this should be taken into account. Not only do some services use normal mail some use services other than RM. Getting a standard in place these days is a must especially with huge fines being increased by the new Courts Costs fees now?

 

Absolutely, as you say this result was a surprise, most people don't find out they even have a fine until an EA turns up, and thus they then usually have to pay the EA's fee's, which is unfair, as they may have paid the fine off in full, or come to an arrangement to pay with the Court, thus negating the fine ever going to Enforcement.

 

A very simple but elegant solution would be an online system that updates weekly with a register of fines and the name of the defendant - Fines and Magistrate's Courts decisions are Public Record anyway, so I can't imagine there are any major data protection issues - after all, the local press often print name, address, punishment.So one can just do a weekly or monthly check to see if one has gained a fine, much the same way many are now in the habit of checking their credit file etc.

 

Even a simple system that immediately added awarded fines to all the credit reference agencies, but that information not being viewable to anyone except the Defendant would be a start


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I feel sorry for the genuine cases, but I'm sure there are lots who try it on, even to the extent of swearing SD's stating they knew nothing about say a CT issue when at least three letters would have been sent. One letter going adrift is improbable, two highly unlikely - the chances of all three going astray are almost nil.

 

Like it or not, the law states that if a letter is posted, delivery is assumed. It would be a good area to tighten up on, at minimum to ensure RM is used and proof of posting is kept.

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I feel sorry for the genuine cases, but I'm sure there are lots who try it on, even to the extent of swearing SD's stating they knew nothing about say a CT issue when at least three letters would have been sent. One letter going adrift is improbable, two highly unlikely - the chances of all three going astray are almost nil.

 

Like it or not, the law states that if a letter is posted, delivery is assumed. It would be a good area to tighten up on, at minimum to ensure RM is used and proof of posting is kept.

 

A system that is based on Proof of Delivery rather than proof of posting would be much better, as proof of posting literally isn't proof of receipt, and Royal Mail and the others have so many problems these days, not to mention the clerical problems the overworked courts have - it is easy enough for a printer jam to wreck a letter, so the system shows a letter was issued, but no letter was actually physically sent.

 

Council Tax is a slightly different kettle of fish, it is a civil matter, being unable to pay wont send you to prison, and EA's cannot force entry into your home. But for Criminal Issues, such as Fines, then the Courts should absolutely be tightening up and making proof of delivery a priority.

 

Because then, you know what? A Defendant has refused to engage with the Court and their fine at all and the Court has Proof of Delivery, rather than a vague proof of posting? Let the Courts open rip with both barrels, and let's see the won't pay's / won't engages dealt with severely, as proof of delivery rather than of posting is pretty decent proof of a refusal to pay and to deal with their fine, and atone for their criminal act.


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MM

You say that the debtor paid the bailiff and then made a Statutory Declaration. Do you know how much the court fine was for and how much he had paid to the enforcement agent?

 

There have been significant changes recently to the way in which Statutory Declarations are dealt with at the Magistrates Court. I will send you some info on this at the weekend (I'm away for a few days).

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An outstanding balance of approximately £685.00 first payment £300.00 (Saturday) Second payment was £85.00 the next day., this was Sunday.

 

 

Monday the SD was sworn, new fine was set due to not taking in to account the MC100 in the original case, in the second case at the same time as the SD. The Bench resentenced D to a new level equal to monies paid thus far.

 

 

This left a zero balance due to the Court, but minus the EA's fees to date, does this now make more sense to you?

 

 

So yes enforcement had started and monies taken, but due to the new case this week the Court revoked the previous Courts decision and made a new one. This would IMO stop the EA from claiming fees due under the original order, am I correct in thinking this?


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A lot will depend on the wording of the new fine as it would seem from your observation in court that the court accepted the Statutory Declaration and then retried the case at the same time (which is what happens if the individual confirms that they would have pleaded guilty if they had of received the initial summons).

 

Although this was not the case in this instance; it should be born in mind that if the individual has stated to the court that they would like to plead 'not guilty', then the case would have been listed for trial and if found guilty at that hearing...he would also be liable for a substantial Criminal Courts Charge as well!!

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I have just heard back from a lady who was in court this morning for a Statutory Declaration and once again the outcome is a surprise one!!

 

The lady received a Further Steps Notice from the court for apparently failing to tax a vehicle. In her case, she has a classic car that has been garaged for the past four years and is subject to a SORN declaration. She was adamant that she had sent the documents to DVLA to again sorn the car for the current year. She had not received a summons.

 

It is fair to say that in court today she found the procedure immensely stressful and the Judge (not magistrate) asked her whether she would have pleaded guilty or not guilty if she had of received the summons. She stated not guilty. Upon hearing this the Judge stated that he had the power to therefore hear the case again.

 

The judge was satisfied that she had sent the SORN declaration to DVLA and accordingly, the court fine and costs were cancelled. However, he was very critical at her for failing to file the Statutory Declaration within the 21 day limit (in her case she had applied on day 24) and he therefore ordered that she would still be liable to pay the £15 Victims Surcharge!!

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Either way a result for the lady.

 

 

But I think some debtors could fall foul of the SD and the new Courts charge. Its fine if you genuinely did not here or receive forms. This has been confirmed in s Supreme Court appeal that mail does go missing and should be taken into account before issuing fines/FPN for failure to do something..


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Either way a result for the lady.

 

 

But I think some debtors could fall foul of the SD and the new Courts charge. Its fine if you genuinely did not here or receive forms. This has been confirmed in s Supreme Court appeal that mail does go missing and should be taken into account before issuing fines/FPN for failure to do something..

What the DVLA abandon their cash cow? Never.


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