ACRO, a government body which is most commonly associated with processing criminal records checks, is also involved in the Covid-19 pandemic fixed penalty notices. Although ACRO being involved in issuing and administering fines is nothing new, this part of their remit causes confusion over the legal status of fixed penalty notices, and what might actually appear on one of the police certificates which ACRO issue, or a DBS disclosure check.
Fixed Penalty Notice
A “fine” for breaching Covid regulations, or a fixed penalty notice for any other offence such as speeding, driving through a red light, or littering isn’t really recorded as a crime. Although in many cases it’s a police officer which will dish out the fine or ticket, this matter will never be recorded on your criminal record. You can rack up dozens of fines, pay them all off promptly, and this won’t affect any disclosure check. The police might issue the fixed penalty notices for speeding or littering, but don’t administer them. The administration of receiving payment is sub-contracted out to a third party, such as ACRO. So, when you pay your fine for running a yellow light or having too many people in your house during Covid restrictions you send the payment to ACRO and that’s usually the end of the matter. You also have the choice of refusing a fixed penalty notice and taking the matter to court if you believe the fine is unjustified, but this is risky. If you do choose to go to court and are still found guilty, the costs could be much higher.
What Happens if You Don’t Pay a Fixed Penalty?
Part of the confusion over whether getting a fine for speeding or graffiti is due to what happens when you don’t pay. If you ignore a fixed penalty notice and don’t pay before the deadline date, then the next stage is a summons to magistrate’s court. At this stage, the matter switches from being a civil matter which won’t appear on your criminal record, to a criminal matter which might appear on any future disclosure certificate. The advice is therefore fairly clear; if you accept a fixed penalty notice and think it’s justified, then pay promptly and don’t let it get anywhere near the stage of going to court.
Even if you do ignore a fixed penalty notice and it gets to the stage of going to court, that still doesn’t mean that the non-payment of a fine will automatically appear on your disclosure check. When producing a DBS certificate, the Police go through a process called filtering, which means that they will “filter out” any minor convictions and cautions which they don’t think are relevant to the position under consideration. It is very unlikely that the Police will consider one matter of an unpaid fine decades ago is relevant. However, if you have a long history of not paying fines until it goes to court and are applying for a position in a financial services organisation, this could well count against you.