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31st January 2012, 14:27:PM #1
Legal Terms Advice
THE FOLLOWING IS A LETTER SENT TO THE COURTS WHICH EXPLAINS MY SITUATION FROM START TO FINISH:
This all started about a year ago when I received a letter from the courts about a reminder of a fine owing for £210.
I served a prison sentence in April 2001 where all my outstanding fines were cleared as I had a number of fines for driving offences back then and no way of paying them.
In light of this and having been in no trouble with the law since my release over ten years ago, I could not understand what this outstanding fine could be.
I attempted to contact the courts using the number on the paperwork but only got an automated system which was no help to me. I sent a letter through the post and to the fax number on the letter requesting an explanation of what this fine was for to which I received no reply.
I then received a further letter from the court saying they intended to take the matter further, so again I tried to contact them to no avail.
Next I received a letter from ‘Philips Collections’for the sum of £285. I rang ‘Phillips Collections’ and spoke to a lady there who took the reference number off my paperwork and then told me they had passed debt back to the creditor. I explained the situation that I had no knowledge of this fine and asked if she could give me some details and she told me that as it had been passed back to the courts they did not have that information and I would have to contact the courts directly to discuss as it was no longer a matter they were involved with.
I managed to get through to the court collections department who told me the fine was for driving offences in 1991 and the case had been heard at the courts in my absence. They told me the address they had listed there at that time was ‘61 Ravensdale’ which is an address I am not familiar with. They gave me the number for ‘Highbury Courts’ as that was where the case was heard and told me they would be able to give me more details. I rand Highbury court and gave them the reference and division number of the case and the man I spoke to made a comment that from the details I had given him it was a very old case as they hadn’t used that reference system in well over 10 years. He told me there was no record on the system of any fines outstanding against me and if there were it would have come up. I asked him what I should do in his opinion in light of this and he told me that if it was him he would just ignore it as if they have no record of a fine outstanding then there isn’t one.
I have not heard anything else on the matter since that phone call which was in August 2011, I presumed that it had been some sort of computer error and thought nothing more on the matter.
Monday 16th January 2012 I found a hand delivered letter off ‘Phillips Collections’ bailiffs had been posted through my door for the sum of £485.
I rang my wife at work to tell her about the letter I had received, she took down the number and she rang ‘Philips Collections’ to find out what the letter was for.
She was told by one of their advisers, ‘Ki’ it was for a fine of mine outstanding from 1995 for:
Low tread on tyres
‘Ki’ then told my wife they have had the debt and been actively chasing it 6 months. My wife asked if they were the company she contacted last year who told her it had been passed back to the courts and ‘Ki’ said that was not them, as they have no record of us ever contacting them and they have only had case for 6 months. ‘Ki’ also claimed that we had had a total of 6 letters from them, 4 that came through the post and 2 delivered by a bailiff. ‘Ki’ said a bailiff had been at our house on 13th December 2011 and left a letter and again today 16th January 2012. My wife explained that we have not had any letters apart from the one today and ‘Ki’ took a very cocky tone and told my wife in a nutshell ‘tough luck’. My wife explained I do not own anything within the property and ‘Ki’ told her to get proof of items that she purchased so they would not be taken. Obviously upset my wife tried again to explain that we are disputing this fine is owed and asked what her options were, ‘Ki’ told her that regardless of whether we dispute it or how old it is it would still have to be paid and that if she isn’t happy with it then write to the PO Box address on the letter we have although he said it wouldn’t make a blind bit of difference and we didn’t have a leg to stand on. She then asked if it did turn out that the fine was owing what our options would be? ‘Ki’ then told my wife that as we had ‘ignored’ previous letters all he would be ‘prepared’ to offer is paying half the £485 there and then and the remainder in 2 weeks time. My wife told ‘Ki’ again that we hadn’t ignored anything as we had not received any other letters apart from this one and that we wouldn’t be able to afford those payment terms. She simply thanked him for his time and left the call at that.
I went to the Citizens Advise Bureau the next day who have written to the courts requesting details of the crime the fine is in relation to as we have been given conflicting information. They have also stated that I have served a prison sentence which should have cancelled out any outstanding fines. They have requested that the fine is taken back from the bailiffs and dealt with by the courts.
I think the main issue to address here is that this is a 17 year old fine that should have been cleared with the prison sentence I served in 2001. I have made numerous attempts to contact the courts and have also contacted ‘Philips Collections’ to resolve the matter with no success. On no occasion have I said that I will not pay the fine, I have simply questioned that it does in fact exist, yet I have been treated as though I have refused to pay and ignored attempted to collect it which is not the case. I have now put it in the hands of the Citizens Advise Bureau to see if they can get any answers on my behalf.
I have received a letter today off 'Philips Collections' acknowledging my letter, and stating they can not put the account on hold only the courts can, and another letter stating that if I do not pay in 7 days the courts will issue a warrant for my arrest.
My wife received a voice mail on 23/1/12 which we have only found out about today as it was to her old number and she was ringing in on another phone to check her voice mails. It was from a woman at London Collection and Compliance Centre acknowledging the letter from Citizens Advice and requesting I contact them.
I have rang today and spoke to a gentleman there who has basically told me that as the case is so old he does not have any details he can give me apart from the fact that it is a driving offence. I asked what he advised me to do and he said all you can do is ring Highbury Courts directly but I can see from your file you have already done this with no success.
I want the exact details of this case, what the offence was, what car I was in, what road the offence occurred on, which police station I was detained in, what date the court hearing was, was I present, what address did notification of the fine originally go to and finally, if this fine does prove to be correct, why this is the ONLY fine that was not paid when I was sent to prison in 2001.
Once I receive all of the above I will be more than happy to discuss the matter further, until then I leave it entirely in your hands.
I will await written response on the matter within 7 days.
(I THEN RECIEVED THE FOLLOWING REPLY)
Thank you for your email.
I have noted your comments and also the information on your account.
In view of this and the age of the fine, the matter will be put before a court for the fine to be remitted.
The bailiff warrant will be recalled today and you should not receive any further correspondence from Philips regarding this fine.
CAN SOMEONE PLEASE TELL ME WHAT THIS MEANS? IS IT BEING LOOKED AT AGAIN OR CANCELLED? i HAVE ALSO RECIEVED A LETTER WITH A COURT DATE FOR THE CASE STATING THAT IT IS NOT NECCESSARY FOR ME TO ATTEND ON THIS OCCASSION.
THANKS IN ADVANCE
31st January 2012, 14:56:PM #2
Re: Legal Terms Advice
It means the court has realised an administrative error by issuing a fine which is already commuted to a prison term, and has recalled it. It just needs a magistrate to rubber-stamp the cancellation of enforcement of the fine. Its just a procedural requirement to close the case.
If Philips contacts you again then tell them to contact the courts and show a copy of that letter. No need to reply to any Philips letters, they are computer generated secquence.
31st January 2012, 15:55:PM #3
Re: Legal Terms Advice
Personally if this had happened to me i would be seriously considering seeking the advice of a legal proffessional (alot give 1 hour free consultation and may take the case on as no win no fee) and look at claiming damages for harassment and emotional distress, that this error by the courts has caused. If it had been any other body, company, organisation that was liable you would have a good claim, and i see no reason why you can not make a claim against the courts for the distress its caused you and your wife.Please note that this advice is given informally, without liability and without prejudice. Always seek the advice of an insured qualified professional. All my legal and nonlegal knowledge comes from either here (LB),my own personal research and experience and/or as the result of necessity as an Employer and Businessman.
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31st January 2012, 15:59:PM #4
Re: Legal Terms Advice
To be honest we were thinking of seeking some sort of compensation but didn't know wether we would have a case or not?
31st January 2012, 16:12:PM #5
Re: Legal Terms Advice
You start by making a formal complaint to the magistrates court that instructed the bailiffs - addressed to the Court Manager - and ask for compensation.
If not resolved then escalate your complaint to the Parliamentary Ombudsman, and you need to make lots of noise spelling out how much trouble this caused you.
Compensation will be in the order of £150. Decide wehther thats worth the effort.
31st January 2012, 19:01:PM #6
Re: Legal Terms Advice
You might also go and see your MP about this, s/he can refer the matter to the Parliamentary Ombudsman and write a letter to the court service on your behalf in the meantime.
4th February 2012, 23:38:PM #7
Re: Legal Terms Advice
If you fail to pay a fine or fines, a court has the power to issue what is known as a Bench Warrant for your arrest for non-payment of fines. If you are unable or unwilling to pay the fine or fines, then the court can impose a term of imprisonment in its place, known as a Substitution Order. And, as Happy Contrails has correctly said, once you have served that term of imprisonment, the fine or fines are wiped out. You cannot be punished twice for the same offence.
Also, as correctly pointed out by Happy Contrails, write to the Court Manager and complain. It might also be a good idea to copy the letter to the CEO HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) and point out that it would appear an audit of fines imposed by courts needs to be carried out as a matter of urgency in the light of what appears to be serious shortcomings in record-keeping.
If HMCTS are instructing low-life like Phillips to make collections they are not legally-entitled to make, it makes a mockery of the justice system and exposes HMCTS to litigation. They need to get their collective act together.
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