Magistrates’ court fines are priority debts. This is because the court has strong powers to recover what you owe. This can include the following.
Magistrates' court bailiffs can force entry into your business premises or your home, even if they have not been before. However, this power should only be used as a last resort. In practice, it is not likely to happen very often.
The court may ask bailiffs to visit you and try and put your goods under the control of the law. This often means that the bailiffs will list goods but let you keep using them as long as you make agreed payments. If you do not pay as agreed, the bailiffs may return and remove the goods by forcing entry into your home.
Bailiff action - personal debts
The court can take money from your wages (if you are employed) or your benefits, to repay what you owe.
Golden rules for dealing with magistrates’ court fines
what type of court?
If you have been taken to court for a non-priority debt such as a loan or credit card, this would be in the County Court and you cannot be sent to prison.
- If you have a magistrates’ court hearing or have arrears from not paying your fine, contact us for advice.
- Always go to court hearings.
- Take your budget with you.
- Try to make arrangements that you can afford to pay or contact the court if you cannot pay.
- Keep paying what you can afford.
Magistrates’ court and other priority debts
Some other priority creditors use the magistrates’ court when enforcing debts.
- If you have business rates or council tax arrears, the council may apply for a liability order through the magistrates’ court. This is a court order than confirms what you owe but have not paid.
- If you owe child maintenance to the Child Support Agency (CSA), or the Child Maintenance Service (CMS), the CSA or CMS may apply for a liability order to confirm what you owe.
Once the council, the CSA, or the CMS have a liability order, they can take further enforcement action against you, such as using bailiffs to try and take control of your goods.
Bailiff action - business debts and Bailiff action - personal debts