Fines now unlimited in the Magistrates’ Courts for ‘Either Way’ offences
Today could mark a change in the scope of summary justice with the entry into force of Section 85 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012.
There will no longer be any limits to the levels of fines which can be imposed for the most commonly prosecuted either-way regulatory offences. The previous prescribed maximum for most offences sentenced in the Magistrates’ Court was £5,000 (with some specified matters, such as environmental offences and health and safety breaches, limited to £50,000 and £20,000 respectively).
This change could result in a greater number of either-way cases being disposed of in the Magistrates’ Courts, and save legal costs for both parties. However, cases which are very serious, complex or involve large corporate defendants will still be allocated to the Crown Court. See the Criminal Practice Direction XIII Annex 3 for details.