Magistrates’ courts have increased criminal offence fines by 100 percent as the cost of the country’s justice delivery system rises beyond the reach of many.
The new fines which were published in a recent Government Gazette have since become law according to Section 27 of the Finance Act.
The new scale follows the repeal of the previous schedule in the Criminal Law Code. According to the new standard scale, a person guilty of a Level One offence will now fork out RTGS$20 from the previous $10 charge and level 14 offence will be fined with RTGS$$10 000 from $5 000.
The new standard scale however, applies only to offences committed after February 20, 2019 when the law came to effect.
However, on offences committed before February 20, 2019, the previous scale will continue to apply according to legal think tank, Veritas.
“When imposing a sentence of a fine, of course, a court must state the amount of the fine as a sum in dollars (now RTGS or bond) not exceeding the relevant level,” said Veritas, “The effect of the new standard scale is that the maximum admission of guilt fine for a minor offence is now $60 RTGS or bond — the new level 3 — but this applies only to offences alleged to have been committed on or after February 20, 2019”, Veritas said in its analysis of the new scale.
Section 356 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act says “payment by accused persons of fines which may be imposed for minor offences in lieu of appearance” in court allows a police officer to invite a person accused of a minor offence to pay an admission of guilt fine.
“In deciding the amount of an admission of guilt fine, a police officer is usually guided by a schedule of deposit fines issued by the Chief Magistrate’s Office specifying offences for which the admission of guilt procedure may be used and indicating the amounts of the fines likely to be imposed by a court,” the legal think tank said further.