Court Fines and Section 14 Statutory Declarations
We receive many enquiries each day from the public about a letter or personal visit from Marston Group, Collectica Ltd or Excel Enforcement or a letter from the HMCTS Historic Debt Team in relation to a Magistrates Court fine that they had not known about. Usually, the reason had been because all previous correspondence (the Summons, the Notice of Fine and Collection Order and Further Steps Notice) had been sent to a previous address. This is a very common problem indeed and in particular, with road traffic offences such as speeding etc and is almost always due to a driving licence or log book (V5C) not being updated with DVLA following a change of address.
How can I correct this mistake?
If you had no knowledge of the court fine (and conviction), then you can make an application to the Magistrates Court for a Section 14 Statutory Declaration. If accepted, the warrant of control will be revoked and the original conviction rendered void. It is important to be aware that a Statutory Declaration will not cancel the initial charge against you. That remains valid (see below).
Is there a time limit to file a Statutory Declaration?
Yes there is. An application for a Section 14 Statutory Declaration must be made within 21 days of you becoming aware of the court fine or conviction. Usually, this period of time would be from the date that you obtained details of the case against you from the court following receipt of a letter (or Further Steps Notice) from the HMCTS Historic Debt Team, or a letter or personal visit from a bailiff/enforcement agent representing Marston Holdings, Collectica Ltd or Excel Enforcement.
It is possible to make a statutory declaration after a period of 21 days but in such cases, you will be required to outline on your Statutory Declaration form the reason for your delay. The Magistrate or Fines Officer will consider the reason given and may or may not accept your Statutory Declaration.
What information will I need before I apply for a Section 14 Statutory Declaration?
Before consideration can be given to a Section 14 Statutory Declaration, you will need to know what the fine related to…..which court convicted you….. the case reference…..the address where court documentation had been sent to….. and whether or not the conviction had been tried under what is called the Single Justice Procedure (SJP).
How do I find out about the Magistrates court fine?
It can very difficult for members of the public unfamiliar with Magistrate court fines or Statutory Declarations to know where to start to make enquiries. If you experience difficulty with obtaining details of the court fine and what it related to and which court had convicted you etc, then please feel free to contact us as we have a lot of experience with these applications and should be able to assist you. Our contact details can be found below.
Which court do I need to apply to for a Section 14 Statutory Declaration?
In most cases, it would be your local Magistrates Court that will hear your application for a Statutory Declaration.
Can I send my Statutory Declaration to the court by post?
Although legislation under Section 14 of the Magistrate’s Courts Act 1980 provides that a sworn statutory declaration can be sent to the Magistrate’s Court by recorded delivery, there have been many amendments to the Act which have changed the way in which Statutory Declarations are dealt with in the Magistrates Courts. The position now is that all Magistrate’s Courts insist that a prior appointment is made for you to attend court in person and we would certainly recommend that you do so.
The Magistrate Court want me to attend the Statutory Declaration hearing in person
This is normal procedure. It is important to be aware that while a Section 14 Statutory Declaration will revoke the conviction against you, it will not affect the original charge in any way. Accordingly, the way in which Magistrates Courts address Section 14 Statutory Declarations has undergone significant changes in the past couple of years. The position now, is that wherever possible, the court are required to re-hear the case against you as soon as possible and in almost all cases, this will be done at the same time as the court consider your Section 14 Statutory Declaration. It is vitally important that you attend the hearing.
What will happen at the Statutory Declaration hearing?
This depends on whether you had advised the court of your intention to plead guilty or not guilty to the initial charge against you. The Magistrate will first consider your Statutory Declaration and; if you had indicated your intention to plead guilty, the case against you will be heard at the same time. A guilty plea should attract a one third reduction in the new fine. Your income will be taken into consideration when setting the level of fine. In this respect, you will be required to complete a Means Enquiry Form/Statement of Assets ( MC100).
I want to plead ‘not guilty’ to the offence.
If you wish to plead not guilty to the initial charge, then it is important to be aware that the Magistrate will deal with the application for a Statutory Declaration first and will then re-list the case for a new trial as soon as possible. You will therefore be required to attend court on a second occasion. At that trial, a representative from the Prosecution (TV Licensing, DVLA, Police etc) will also be in attendance.
By entering a plea of ‘not guilty’ you will not be eligible for the one third discount in any new fine. This discount is only applicable in cases where an ‘early’ guilty has been entered (and a new trial avoided).
I have a TV Licence Court Fine, can I plead not guilty?
In almost all cases, a ‘not guilty’ plea would not be appropriate.
This is because; a TV licence fine would not be possible unless you had received a personal visit to your home from a TV Licence Enquiry Agent Court and during the interview, you had signed in his presence, a ‘Prosecution Statement’ form (TVL 178) confirming the length of time that you had been viewing a TV without a licence. A copy of your signed statement (TVL 178) is presented to the court by the TV Licensing Court Presenter as evidence.
Where can I find a copy of the Section 14 Statutory Declaration.
A copy of the Section 14 Statutory Declaration can be viewed here.
I need help with my Section 14 Statutory Declaration
Section 14 Statutory Declarations are very important applications indeed and can be very daunting for members of the public who is most cases, have never appeared in court. If you require assistance with this important application, please do not hesitate to contact us. Our contact details are below.
Note from Bailiff Advice.
If you have received a letter or visit from Marston Holdings, Collectica Ltd, Swift Credit Services or Excel Enforcement Ltd, in relation to a court fine that you had not known about, or if you have any query whatsoever regarding a Statutory Declaration, you can email a question to us using our popular Question page. Alternatively, you can contact us by phone. Details are on our Contact page.
PS: A simple overview of the new Taking Control of Goods Regulations 2013 can be read here