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 to your home even if they have not been in 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 to 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 to your home.
See our fact sheet:
The court can take money from your wages or benefits before you get them 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 failing to pay fines, contact us for advice.
- Always go to court hearings.
- Take your budget sheet 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 council tax or business rates arrears, the council may apply for a liability order through the magistrates' court. This is a court order that confirms what you owe but have not paid.
- If you owe child maintenance to the Child Support Agency (CSA), the CSA may apply for a liability order to confirm what you owe.
Once the council or CSA have a liability order, they can take further enforcement action against you, such as using bailiffs to try to take control of your goods.