Court Fines and Statutory Declarations
Every day, we receive enquiries from the public about a letter or visit from a bailiff in relation to a magistrate court fine that they knew nothing about. Usually, the reason had been because all prior notices had been sent to a previous address. This is a very common problem with road traffic offences such as speeding etc and is usually due to the motorist failing to update their driving licence and log book (V5C) after moving house.
Driving licence suspended.
If the court fine had related to speeding, there can be more serious problems because usually, in addition to the fine, the court will order that points be deducted from the motorists driving licence. DVLA will write to the motorist at the address held on their records to request the return of the driving licence so that the points can be recorded. If the motorist fails to return the licence within 30 days…..DVLA suspend the driving licence. This can seriously impact on the motorists insurance policy and unfortunately, this is a very common problem.
How can I correct this mistake?
If you had no knowledge of the court fine, then you can submit a Statutory Declaration to the Magistrates Court. The applicable legislation is Section 14 of the Magistrates Court Act 1980. Once 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.
Is there a time limit to file a Statutory Declaration?
Yes there is. An application for a statutory declaration must be made within 21 days of you becoming aware of the court fine or conviction. In most cases, this period of time would be from the date that you received a letter or a personal visit from a bailiff/enforcement agent.
It is possible to make a statutory declaration after a period of 21 days but in such cases, you will be required to outline the reason for the delay. The Magistrate or Fines Officer will consider the reason given and may or may not, accept your Statutory Declaration.
It needs to be stressed that a Section 14 Statutory Declaration is a very important application and great care needs to be taken with the relevant documentation.
How do I find out which court to apply to for a Statutory Declaration?
This is by far the most common enquiry that we receive. If you have difficulty ascertaining which court had convicted you in your absence, and which court you need to apply to for a Statutory Declaration, please do not hesitate to contact us (details below) as we have a lot of experience in this subject.
Can I send my Statutory Declaration to the court by post?
Although legislation allows for a sworn statutory declaration to be sent to the Magistrate’s Court by recorded delivery, the fact remains, that almost all Magistrate’s Courts now insist that an appointment is made for you to attend court in person and we would certainly recommend that you do so.
If you are tempted to send your Section 14 Statutory Declaration to the court by recorded delivery, please be aware that the recent amendments to legislation provide that you must also indicate with your application, whether you intend to plead guilty or not guilty to the initial charge. You must also include with your Section 14 Statutory Declaration, a completed Means Enquiry Form/Statement of Means (MC100). Upon receipt, the Magistrates Court will notify you of a new hearing date.
Magistrate Court want me to attend in person for a Statutory Declaration?
The way in which the Magistrates Courts deal with Section 14 Statutory Declarations has undergone significant changes. The position now, is that the court must 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. If you intend to plead not guilty to the charge, a fresh trial date will be listed.
I want to plead ‘not guilty’ to the offence.
If you wish to plead not guilty to the initial charge, the court must re-list the case for a new trial as soon as possible.
If your conviction had been for using a TV without a valid licence, then in most cases, a ‘not guilty’ plea would not be applicable. If you have any questions, please contact us.
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 require guidance with a Section 14 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