The enforcement of financial penalties by magistrates' courts : an evaluative study
Despite the fine’s position as the most commonly imposed sentencing disposal, it has been the subject of limited research. This dearth is a particular concern as recent statistics show that a large proportion of financial penalties are in arrears, with significant amounts being written-off. There have been various attempts in recent years to improve the enforcement process, which underscores the need for an evaluation of current policies and practices. The thesis is based on a study evaluating the enforcement of financial penalties by the Birmingham and Manchester city centre magistrates’ courts. The fieldwork was conducted both inside and outside the court building: defaulters’ appearances at the fines court, and fines clinic, were observed, and bailiffs and Civilian Enforcement Officers [CEOs] were accompanied as they attempted to execute distress warrants and bail warrants respectively. The thesis outlines various problems, and makes a number of proposals designed not only to raise the levels of effectiveness and efficiency but also the quality of justice. Taken together they provide a new coherent framework for the enforcement process.