A fiscal fine (formally a fixed penalty conditional offer) is a form of deferred prosecution agreement in Scotland issued by a procurator fiscal for certain summary offences as an alternative to prosecution. Alternatives to prosecution are called direct measures in Scotland.[1]

Fiscal fines can vary between £50 and £300, but a compensation offer may be issued either separately or additionally with similar effect but with payment going to the victim of crime: these can be of any amount not exceeding £5,000.[2][3] Whilst not being recorded as a conviction[4] or formal admission of guilt,[5] the payment of a fiscal fine can be revealed in certain circumstances, including a requirement by the General Medical Council for disclosure.[6] The power to issue fiscal fines is conferred by section 302 of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995[7] as amended by section 50 of the Criminal Proceedings etc. (Reform) (Scotland) Act 2007.[8]

Background

Fiscal fines were introduced in Scotland by section 56 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1987,[9] following recommendations made by the Stewart Committee in Keeping Offenders Out of Court: Further Alternatives to Prosecution (published in 1982).[10] Under the 1987 Act the fiscal fine was fixed at £25, which was changed by the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 to four levels of £25, £50, £75 and £100,[7] and the maximum fine was increased following the McInnes Report from Sheriff Principal John McInnes.[11] The maximum fine was subsequently increased to £300 by section 50 of the Criminal Proceedings etc. (Reform) (Scotland) Act 2007.[8] The 2007 Act also modified the system from one where the offender had to accept a fiscal fine as an alternative fine, to one in which the offender was determined to have accepted fine if they did not object (an "opt-out" system.) The move to an opt-out system was another recommendation of the McInnes report.[8][12]

Criticism

The Scotsman newspaper reported in 2008 that fiscal fines were being used to deal with violent and serious crimes, contrary to previous assurances from the Crown Office[13] The Inspectorate of Prosecution examined the use of fiscal fines in 2009 and found that most fiscal fines for assault were dealt with appropriately.[14][15] The Crown Office responded by rejecting any claims that some sex offenders were offered fiscal fines instead of facing prosecution.[16]

In the four years leading up to September 2013 showed that 189,256 fiscal fines had seen warning letters issued for non-payment.[17]

The enforcement regime was also criticised in 2017 in the Scottish Parliament when figures revealed 45% of fiscal fines issued remained unpaid.[18]

References

  1. ^ "Summary Justice Reform: Evaluation of Direct Measures". gov.scot. Scottish Government Social Research. 25 January 2011. Retrieved 25 March 2017. ...police and procurator fiscal 'direct measures' (DMs) introduced under SJR. These are alternatives to prosecution, which it is hoped will contribute to fewer minor cases going to court unnecessarily, freeing up the courts to deal with more serious cases (Scottish Government, 2007).
  2. ^ "Alternative to Prosecution". crownoffice.gov.uk. Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service. Retrieved 25 March 2017. The 'fixed penalty conditional offer' (fine) is an effective direct measure for less serious offences. The levels of fine are set by the Scottish Government and are currently £50, £75, £100, £150, £200, £250 and £300...The 'compensation offer' is an effective direct measure for offences where an individual has suffered loss. Compensation may be issued in respect of monetary loss, personal loss, or alarm or distress. The maximum level of compensation that can be offered is £3,000.
  3. ^ "Fiscal Fines". scotcourts.gov.uk. Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service. Retrieved 25 March 2017. The fiscal can also offer you the opportunity to pay compensation without the case going to court. This is called a compensation offer. The maximum compensation offer is £5000
  4. ^ "A Summary of Community Options: Alternatives to Prosecution, Alternatives to Remand and Alternatives to Custody" (PDF). West Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership. Glasgow Community Justice Authority. p. 8. Retrieved 25 March 2017.
  5. ^ Kalunta-Crumpton, Anita (2006). "3". Drugs, victims and race : the politics of drug control. Winchester: Waterside Press. p. 85. ISBN 1904380182. Retrieved 25 March 2017. Introduced in 1995, fiscal fines involve the imposition of a financial penalty by procurators fiscal in absence of a formal admission of guilt.
  6. ^ "Guidance on convictions, cautions, determinations and other methods of police disposal" (PDF). gmc-uk.org. General Medical Council. March 2017. p. 10. Retrieved 25 March 2017. A fiscal fine is a form of deferred prosecution agreement in Scotland issued by a procurator fiscal for certain summary offences as an alternative to prosecution. The power to issue fiscal fines is conferred by section 50 of the Criminal Proceedings etc. (Reform) (Scotland) Act 2007. Doctors are required to notify us of fiscal fines under our reporting guidance.
  7. ^ a b "Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995". legislation.gov.uk. The National Archives. 8 November 1995. pp. S.302. Retrieved 25 March 2017.
  8. ^ a b c "Criminal Proceedings etc. (Reform) (Scotland) Act 2007". legislation.gov.uk. The National Archives. 22 February 2007. p. S.50. Retrieved 25 March 2017.
  9. ^ "Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1987". legislation.gov.uk. The National Archives. 15 May 1987. pp. S.56. Retrieved 25 March 2017.
  10. ^ Keeping Offenders out of Court; Further Alternatives to Prosecution - The Second Report of the Stewart Committee (Report). Cmnd. Her Majesty's Stationery Office. 1983.
  11. ^ McInnes, John (16 March 2004). "The Summary Justice Review Committee: REPORT TO MINISTERS". scot.gov. Scottish Government. p. Chapter 11: ALTERNATIVES TO PROSECUTION. Retrieved 25 March 2017.
  12. ^ Leverick, Fiona. "Plea and Confession Bargaining in Scotland" (PDF). ejcl.org.uk. Netherlands Comparative Law Association. Retrieved 25 March 2017.
  13. ^ "Anger as violent criminals get fiscal fine deals". heraldscotland.com. Herald Scotland. 23 June 2008. Retrieved 25 March 2017.
  14. ^ "Summary Justice Reform: Thematic Report on the Use of Fiscal Fines". gov.scot. Inspectorate of Prosecution in Scotland. 25 March 2009. Retrieved 25 March 2017. Overall the vast majority of Fiscal Fines for assaults were appropriate and proportionate especially looked at from the general principles of summary justice reform, in particular speedier disposal (most cases were dealt with within a few days of receipt from the police) and less inconvenience to witnesses etc.
  15. ^ "Most fiscal fines "appropriate and proportionate", says inspectorate". journalonline.co.uk. Law Society of Scotland. 25 March 2009. Retrieved 25 March 2017.
  16. ^ "Fiscal fines". gov.scot. Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service. 19 May 2008. Retrieved 25 March 2017. Claims in the media that some sex offenders are being offered fiscal fines rather than face a court are unfounded, the Crown Office said today.
  17. ^ Johnson, Simon (19 September 2013). "More than 500,000 warning letters sent to criminals who ignore fines". telegraph.co.uk. The Telegraph. Retrieved 25 March 2017. The figures mean that the total of warning letters for non-payment of fiscal fines over the past four years was 189,256, with the annual total more than doubling.
  18. ^ "Almost half of fiscal fines are unpaid despite enforcement regime". heraldscotland.com. Hearld Scotland. 26 March 2009. Retrieved 25 March 2017. Last night Bill Aitken, Tory justice spokesman and chairman of the justice committee, said many offenders had no intention of paying. He said: "Why will they not arrange to take payments from benefits or salaries, thus ensuring that we get the money?"