A court can pass as a sentence a fine on an individual for any offence (unless there is a mandatory sentence). Further, a court can fine an individual as well as passing another sentence on them. A fine however can’t be combined with a discharge or an order under the Mental Health Act.
The Crown Court can fine an individual (or a company) any amount without an upper limit, subject to a requirement that the court must make an enquiry of the defendant’s means and the fine should reflect the seriousness of the offence.
If an offender who is fined is aged over 18 then the Court must impose a period of imprisonment (or detention if aged 18-21) in default – ie the amount that has to be served if the fine is not paid.
The maximum period of time in default that can be set is set out of Parliament and the current table is as follows:
|An amount not exceeding £200||7 days|
|An amount exceeding £200 but not exceeding £500||14 days|
|An amount exceeding £500 but not exceeding £1,000||28 days|
|An amount exceeding £1,000 but not exceeding £2,500||45 days|
|An amount exceeding £2,500 but not exceeding £5,000||3 months|
|An amount exceeding £5,000 but not exceeding £10,000||6 months|
|An amount exceeding £10,000 but not exceeding £20,000||12 months|
|An amount exceeding £20,000 but not exceeding £50,000||18 months|
|An amount exceeding £50,000 but not exceeding £100,000||2 years|
|An amount exceeding £100,000 but not exceeding £250,000||3 years|
|An amount exceeding £250,000 but not exceeding £1 million||5 years|
|An amount exceeding £1 million||10 years|
The enforcement of fines is a complicated area, but generally a court cannot activate the default period unless there has been a deliberate failure to pay.
A Magistrates’ Court can likewise fine an individual. If the offence is summary only (one that is generally less serious and can only be tried in the magistrates court), then there is a sliding scale of maximum fines:
Level Maximum Fine
When a maximum sentence is set by Parliament, they will often include a reference to the maximum fine being, for example, Level 3.
If the offence is an either way offence, then the maximum fine is also unlimited. As always, there are exceptions, and some offence have different maxima and minima set by Parliament.
A magistrates court won’t set a period in default.