While fines are not the most prevalent punishment in the crown court, when they are, they are usually very significant.
Do I have to pay the fine all at once?
In some situations, a court will compel full payment (and may give you a deadline), but in most cases, the court will order that you pay in instalments, usually weekly or monthly.
You will not be given time to pay if:
(a) in the case of an offence punishable by imprisonment, you appear to the judge to have sufficient means to pay forthwith;
(b) it appears to the judge that you are unlikely to remain long enough at a place of abode in the UK to enable the payment of the fine to be enforced by other methods; or
(c) on the occasion when the fine is imposed, the judge sentences you to an immediate prison sentence, custody for life, or detention in a young offender institution for that or another offence, or so sentences you for an offence in addition to forfeiting his recognisance, or you are already serving a sentence of custody for life or a term of imprisonment or detention.
Setting a default period
Section 139 of the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 requires a court to fix a period of imprisonment in default.
Imprisonment in default is an extra term of imprisonment that you might end up receiving if a fine is not paid:
“…the purpose of ordering a sentence of imprisonment in default is designed to ensure, so far as possible, that the defendant found to have realisable assets in the amount
[…] ordered, should pay that amount and should obtain no advantage by refusing to do so. That authority stems not only from previous cases but also from the statutory provisions themselves.” (R v Smith  EWCA Crim 344).The maximum term is dependent on the size of the fine imposed:
|An amount not exceeding £200||7 days|
|An amount exceeding £200 but not exceeding £500||14 days|
|An amount exceeding £500 but not exceeding £1,000||28 days|
|An amount exceeding £1,000 but not exceeding £2,500||45 days|
|An amount exceeding £2,500 but not exceeding £5,000||3 months|
|An amount exceeding £5,000 but not exceeding £10,000||6 months|
|An amount exceeding £10,000 but not exceeding £20,000||12 months|
|An amount exceeding £20,000 but not exceeding £50,000||18 months|
|An amount exceeding £50,000 but not exceeding £100,000||2 years|
|An amount exceeding £100,000 but not exceeding £250,000||3 years|
|An amount exceeding £250,000 but not exceeding £1 million||5 years|
|An amount exceeding £1 million||10 years|
Will a court always set the maximum term in default?
The amount of the fine and where it falls within the bands will determine how long you are in default. As a result, a £55,000 fine would likely result in a default period of 18 months rather than two years. This isn’t, however, a math problem.
What happens if I do not pay?
If you willfully refuse to pay the fine and all other avenues for enforcement have been exhausted, you will be sentenced to the default prison term.
If your financial circumstances change and you are unable to pay a financial penalty, it is critical that you contact your solicitor immediately. It is usually preferable to try to address issues as soon as possible rather than waiting for enforcement processes to begin.
I would sooner serve the time than pay the fine, is that possible?
If you do not pay, you will be sentenced to prison.
This does not, however, eliminate the penalty; if the authorities later discover that you have the financial means to pay the fine, legal action might be taken to reclaim the funds.
How can we help?
We ensure we keep up to date with any changes in legislation and case law so that we are always best placed to advise you properly. If you would like to discuss any aspect of your case, please contact our team of criminal defence specialists on: 01376 511819