The power to make a compensation order comes from the PCC(S)A 2000 ss 130-132. Compensation orders are available where it can be shown that there has been some loss incurred. This loss may be personal injury, loss or damage resulting from the offence of which the defendant has been convicted.
General principles include the requirement to make a ‘just’ order on the information it has, the compensation is not considered an additional punishment, and of course, the loss must be fairly said to have resulted from the offence. Compensation Orders are not a means of ‘buying’ a shorter sentence, but are simply a convenient summary means of ‘putting things right’.
The means of the defendant
When considering the amount subject of the Compensation Order, the court must consider the ability of the defendant to comply with the order. The obvious reason being that there is no point in making an order if the defendant is unable to pay. Nor would it be fair to make an order (with a period of imprisonment in default of payment of the order) which the defendant is unable to comply with.
There is a requirement to ‘have regard’ to the means of the defendant in the Act, and further, the Court of Appeal have decided that there is a duty to inquire into the means of the defendant. Once the court has inquired into the means of the defendant, the court must be satisfied that the defendant has the means to pay the order within a reasonable period of time. The assessment does not need to include a precise calculation, rather a broad picture will suffice.
There is no duty on the prosecution to conduct an inquiry into his means. Therefore the court must make its own assessment on the information it had.