What is a Fixed Penalty Notice?
A Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) is a form of ‘out of court disposal’ (like a caution) that is a way of dealing with an offender (or suspected offender) and marking their behaviour, but without formal Court proceedings.
They were originally introduced as a way of dealing with parking violations, but have now developed into a sort of ‘ticket’ that can be used against low level anti-social behaviour. Although everyone refers to them as an ‘FPN’, when used in this context they are officially called a ‘PND’ – Penalty Notice for Disorder.
Over time they have become more and more formalised and are now on a statutory footing with the rules being mainly set out in ss1-11 Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001.
These are only for people aged 18 and over (Note: Section 2, which sets out the availability of FPNs was amended by LASPOA 2012 Sch 23 para 3(2). Unfortunately, the legislation.gov.uk copy of ss1-11 Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 does not reflect that change at the time of writing this post, and so still states the age is 10 year and above.)
It is sometimes called an ‘on the spot fine’ because it involves you paying £60-90 (depending on the offence) as the penalty.
How does it work?
A Police Officer has to decide that s/he has reason to believe that you have committed ‘penalty offence’ and that there is sufficient evidence available that, if the matter went to Court, there is a realistic prospect of conviction.
The offence must be low level – someone drunk and shouting on the street may be suitable for one. If they attack a passerby, then it probably wouldn’t be. Sometimes there is flexibility and discretion for the officer, sometimes there are stricter rules (for example, you can only get a FPN for shoplifting if you have not had one before and the value of the goods are under £100).
Also, the person must be ‘suitable’ – if they have a string of offences, or are a drug addict, then they probably won’t be (also if they have recently had an FPN).
If the Officer decides that one is suitable, then they have to be able to verify your name and address and ensure that you are able to understand the meaning of an FPN and are co-operative in relation to it.
At that point, if the above is in favour of an FPN, then it can be ‘administered’. This involves giving you a notice of what the offence is, who the officer is (and which police station they are from) and how much the penalty is. You have to sign to accept receipt of it.
What happens if I don’t pay the penalty?
If you don’t pay it (and don’t appeal it) within 21 days then the penalty is increased by a half and it is registered with the Magistrates’ Court as a fine (and can be enforced as that). Whilst the police could in theory prosecute at this stage, this would only be in an exceptional case.
Can I refuse to accept one if I haven’t done anything wrong?
Yes. You have 21 days to decide what to do. You can decline to pay it and challenge the issuing of it by ‘asking to be tried’. It will then be up to the CPS as to whether they prosecute or not.
What’s a PND-E?
This is a new initiative (for any behviour after 8th April 2013. The ‘E’ stands for ‘Education’. The police have the option of setting up Educational Courses which someone can attend instead of paying the penalty. This is supposed to give individuals insight and awareness into their behaviour. As with a FPN, there is no obligation to accept a PND-E.
If one is offered, you can pay the penalty amount instead of going on the course. If having agreed to this, you fail to attend the course (or don’t take it seriously enough) then the case will proceed as if you had not paid the fine (see above).
Is it a criminal conviction?
No. As there is no admission of guilty, then it does not count as ‘bad character’ (and is different to a caution in that respect) – Hamer  EWCA Crim 2053. The details are still recorded on the police computer however.
Also, the fact that someone has received and accepted a FPN does not mean that they cannot be prosecuted for the same (or similar offence) – Gore & Maher  EWCA Crim 1424.
What offences can I get one for?
There is a long list of 29 offences. The full list is below (courtesy of North Yorkshire Police).
|Wasting police time, giving false report||£90|
|Send false message/persistently use a public electronic communications network in order to cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety||£90|
|Knowingly gives a false alarm to a person acting on behalf of a fire and rescue authority.||£90|
|Words/behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress||£90|
|Fire or throw firework(s)||£90|
|Drunk & disorderly in a public place||£90|
|Destroying or damaging property (under £300 and may only be given on one occasion)||£90|
|Retail Theft (under £100 and may only be given on one occasion)||£90|
|Breach of fireworks curfew (11pm-7am)||£90|
|Possession of a category 4 firework||£90|
|Sells or attempts to sell alcohol to a person who is drunk.||£90|
|Supply of alcohol by or on behalf of a club to a person aged under 18||£90|
|Sale of alcohol anywhere to a person under 18||£90|
|Buys or attempts to buy alcohol on behalf of person under 18||£90|
|Buys or attempts to buy alcohol for consumption on relevant premises by person under 18.||£90|
|Delivery of alcohol to person under 18 or allowing such delivery||£90|
|Possess a controlled drug of Class B – cannabis/cannabis resin||£90|
|Trespassing on a railway||
|Throwing stones/matter/thing at a train or railway||
|Drunk in a highway, other public place or licensed premises||
|Consume alcohol in designated public place, contrary to requirement by constable not to do so||
|Depositing and leaving litter||
|Allowing consumption of alcohol by a person under 18 on relevant premises.||
|Buying or attempting to buy alcohol by a person under 18.||
|Drop / leave litter / refuse except in a receptacle provided for the purpose in a RoyalPark or other open space||
|Use pedal cycle / skates / blade / board / foot-propelled device in a RoyalPark or other open spaces||
|Unless the person is registered blind, failing to immediately remove animal faeces from a RoyalPark or other open space||
Also, Possession of Khat from 24th June 2014 – £60.