Martin Partington: Spotlight on the Justice System

Keeping the English Legal System under review

Civil penalties

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The recent news that Baroness Scotland had been subject to a civil penalty for breach of immigration law raises the interesting and not straightforward question: what is a civil penalty?

In essence it is a mechanism for government departments and agencies to secure increased compliance with regulations without having to take cases to court – with all the accompanying challenges of proving a breach of regulations ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. It should be characterised as an aspect of administrative justice (chapter 6) rather than criminal justice.

Imposition of a civil penalty does not follow a criminal conviction; therefore it does not give the person on whom a civil penality has been served a criminal record.

Imposition of civil penalties has become an increasingly used part of the administrative justice system – example can be found not only in the context of immigration law, but also taxation, environmental pollution and many others. Use of civil penalities is wide-spread – not just in the UK.

The UK Border Agency lists employers issued with civil penalty notices. It may be interesting to see others, apart from Baroness Scotland, who have been the target of this mode of enforcement:


Written by lwtmp

September 28, 2009 at 2:48 pm

Posted in chapter 6

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