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Fine Default Hearings

The Divisional Court ruling in March 2013 and the subsequent amendments to the Magistrates’ Court Rules in February 2014, fine default hearings are being listed from week commencing 23 June 2014.

Fine Default Hearing Notices are being personally served on fine defaulters and will notify the fine defaulter of the date, time and place of the default hearing and their right to attend the hearing, to be legally represented at the hearing and, depending on their means, entitlement to legal aid.

Below is some information to Frequently Asked Questions about fine default hearings:

Why have I received this Fine Default Hearing Notice?

This Fine Default Hearing Notice has been issued to you as court records show that you had a fine imposed against you which has not been paid. This fine may have been outstanding for some time as a warrant could have been issued for execution by the PSNI.

All outstanding warrants were recalled from the PSNI and reviewed by a Judge who decided if a default hearing should be listed.

What do I need to do?

If you pay the outstanding fine before the court date you do not need to attend the default hearing. How you can pay is detailed below.

If you cannot pay the full outstanding balance then you must attend the default hearing at the court detailed in your Notice.

What is a default hearing?

A default hearing is a hearing at which a defendant with an unpaid fine can attend and make representations to the Judge about the reasons for the non-payment and make arrangements to pay. The Judge will decide how long you will serve in prison or Young Offenders Centre if you don’t pay your fine.

Can I pay the fine now?

Yes - you can pay the fine now and you will not be required to attend court. Payment can be made in the following ways:

Pay online using a debit or credit card (for any fines imposed after 22 January 2010) go to the NI Courts and Tribunals Service website www.courtsni.gov.uk/en-GB/Services/FinePaymentsOnline/Pages/DefaultNew.aspx. If you do not have your online reference number, please contact the NICTS Customer Service Centre on 030 0200 7812.

Telephone 030 0200 7812 for payment by debit or credit card.

Pay by post using a cheque or a postal order. Cheques and postal orders should be made payable to ‘Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service’ and sent to the NICTS Customer Service Centre, PO Box 256, Londonderry, BT48 4AP.

If I pay my fine now do I still have to attend the default hearing?

No, provided you pay in full before the court hearing date.

What happens if I don’t attend Court or a solicitor doesn’t represent me at Court?

If the Judge is satisfied that you are aware of the fine default hearing and the notice was served on you the case will be dealt with in your absence. In your absence the Judge will issue a fine warrant to the police for further enforcement action. This warrant will state the number of days that you will be required to serve in prison if full payment is not made to police or Prison Service on reception to Prison / Young Offenders Centre. A warrant fee will be added to the outstanding fine amount and also needs to be paid in full.

What will happen at court if I attend?

At court you and/or your solicitor will be given the opportunity to explain why payment has not been made before a decision is made about how your outstanding fine will be dealt with by the Judge. If your circumstances, income or benefits have changed from the original court date please bring supporting evidence with you to the default hearing.

The Judge may:-

  • Give you further time to pay or make an instalments order;
  • Issue a warrant for immediate committal (imprisonment) specifying the period of imprisonment ie the number of days that you will be required to serve in prison if the amount due is not paid before the end of that imprisonment period – this warrant will include an additional warrant fee; you will be taken into custody but may pay the amount due to the court office or you may make a payment to NI Prison Service at the prison or Young Offenders Centre and you will then be release.
  • Issue a warrant for distress (seize goods to the value of the warrant and any associated costs) this warrant will include an additional warrant fee which will also have to be paid.

Am I entitled to legal aid at my fine default hearing?

Legal aid is available for a solicitor’s attendance at default hearings if you pass the means test for legal aid entitlement. Please contact your solicitor to determine if you are eligible for legal aid for this hearing.

I have proof that I have paid this fine.

Please contact the NICTS Customer Service Centre on 030 0200 7812 with proof of payment. You will need to provide information about how, when and where the fine was paid.

I can’t attend court on the default hearing date due an unforeseen emergency?

Contact the relevant court office, informing the court why you are unable to attend with as much detail as possible.  This information along with any additional written information you provide in relation to the non-payment of the fine will be provided to the Judge who will decide whether to adjourn the case or proceed with the case in you absence.

Can I make a part payment now and pay the rest later?

Yes, a part payment can be made. An application for instalment order or further time to pay may be considered at the default hearing either in person or in writing. Please visit the NICTS website (www.courtsni.gov.uk/en-GB/Services/FinePaymentsOnline/Pages/DefaultNew.aspx) to make a payment and complete an application for a time extension or contact the NICTS Customer Service Centre on 030 0200 7812 to make a payment and discuss completion of a time extension application form.

I didn’t know I’d been fined?

A Fine Notice would have issued to the address on your summons or charge sheet at the time it was imposed by the Court. If you need more details about the fine this default hearing notice relates to please contact the Customer Service Centre on 030 0200 7812.

I am not the person named on the default hearing.

Please contact the Customer Service Centre on 030 0200 7812 to ensure no further documentation is issued to your address.

Will I go to prison or a Young Offenders Centre?

Yes – if payment is not made then the Judge will decide on the amount of time to be spent in prison or Young Offenders Centre in default of payment. Please attend Court and explain to the Judge if your circumstances have changed.