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Fines and Compensation Orders

Scottish courts use fines and compensation orders more than any other sentence. The Criminal & Youth Justice Service now has a restricted role in this area of work. We include full information about fines and compensation for the benefit of people given such a sentence.

When does the court use fines or compensation orders?

Most offences can be dealt with by means of a fine. However the court may decide that the case is too serious, and will then look at other sentencing options.

The size of fine to be paid will depend on a number of factors:

  • the seriousness of the charge that someone is appearing on
  • the maximum fine appropriate to the case (which may be set by law, and which will have been notified to the accused beforehand); and
  • the offender's personal and financial circumstances.

Payments to a fine may be made by instalments, and the court decides what these instalments will be. If a person is given a Compensation Order, they will pay the money to the court, and it will be passed on to the person in whose favour it was made.

The court may impose both a fine and a Compensation Order for the same case, and, if so, payments will be made first to the Compensation Order.

Compensation may be attached to other sentences: to a Community Payback Order with a Compensation Requirement, or to a Probation Order with a  condition of compensation. Payments are made in the same way, but in such circumstances, failure to pay the Compensation will also be considered grounds for Breach of the order.

What happens if someone doesn't pay a fine or compensation order?

The court will want to know why the payments have not been made, and in order to do this will call the person to attend the Fines Court.

That court may decide to allow the person further time to pay at the rate previously set, or may adjust the size of the weekly payments. The court can order deductions from benefits (at a modest level) or from wages. Should the court wish to give the person further encouragement in this, a Fines Enforcement Officer (a court official) will follow up any failures to make payment. The Criminal & Youth Justice Service now has no formal role in this, although we will give advice and guidance upon request from people with whom we are already working.

Since 1st September 2007, the right of the courts to use imprisonment for fine default has been extremely restricted. Instead, the court will use a Community Payback Order (or for older fines, a Supervised Attendance Order), requiring the person who has failed to pay their fine to carry out a period of unpaid work.