As part of the Department of Justice's ongoing work to address the issue of fine default, the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service launched an information initiative and fine payment record from 21 March 2011.
These initiatives are intended to improve the information that is available to courts, in order to assist them in making appropriate decisions at the point of sentence – an issue that was highlighted by the public consultation on fine default in Northern Ireland.
The information initiative focuses on the means enquiry form (the form used by defendants to give their financial details to a court), which has been revised to encourage its use.
The purpose of the means enquiry form is to provide courts with defendants’ financial details, in order to assist in making decisions in relation to the level of fine to impose, and also in determining any application a defendant may make, at the point of sentence, for extra time to pay or to pay by instalments. If a defendant does not provide his or her financial details, a court may make whatever determination it thinks fit. It is, therefore, in defendants’ best interests to complete and return the forms to court.
From 21 March 2011 a copy of the form will be served on all defendants along with their summons/charge documents. Anyone needing help completing a means enquiry from may contact a solicitor or advice centre. Contact details for Citizens Advice are included on the form.
Further copies of the means enquiry form are available from court offices, or you can download it electronically from our website by using the following links:
Download the Means Enquiry Form (PDF) or Download the Means Enquiry Form (Word)
Fine payment record
The means enquiry form also includes a notice advising people that, from 25 April 2011, the court may consider their "fine payment record".
The fine payment record shows details of fines imposed on a defendant over the previous 3 years, and whether these have been paid. It will be provided to the District Judge (Magistrates’ Courts), if a fine is being contemplated, at the point of sentence. A copy of the record will be given to the defendant at this stage, although a defendant may also request a copy of the record at any time before attending court, from:
Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service
Customer Services Centre
Tel: 028 7126 1329