Sentencing in the Magistrates Court

Once a defendant is proven guilty, the magistrates’ court are able to give several different sentences. A legal advisor will be present in court to help guide the magistrates on the different sentencing options available to them, which can include:

  • a conditional discharge (the defendant is let off initally, but if convicted of another offence within a certain period of time they can be sentenced for both)
  • an absolute discharge (this will occur if it is a first offence and the defendant seems unlikely to offend again)
  • community punishment (where the defendant would have to partake in activities that benefit their local community)
  • a compensation fee of up to £5,000, which the defendant would have to pay to the other party involved in the case
  • ordering bailiffs to seize any goods to pay for what is owed
  • a prison sentence of up to 6 months.

If, for example, a council tax bill goes unpaid, a liability order may be issued in which the magistrates’ court will arrange for the sum owed to be paid back in a number of ways, including:

  • claiming money from a defendant’s wages
  • Employment Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Support Allowance.

If these matters are left unresolved, bailiffs could be ordered to seize any goods. The magistrates will also have the power to send defendants to prison for up to six months.


The magistrates’ court is one of the fairest ways to resolve any type of civil or criminal dispute. The advice of someone who understands their workings, however, can still greatly improve your chances of a successful outcome to your case. Specially trained solicitors can guide you through the process, giving expert legal advice about the options that are available to you.