Supreme Court allows appeal and settles law relating to interest accruing on non-payment of confiscation orders and whether or not interest impacts on default term

30 Jan 2018

R (Gene Gibson) v Secretary of State for Justice [2018] UKSC 2, the Supreme Court allowed Mr Gibson’s appeal against the way in which his default term was calculated after he made various payments against a confiscation order.

Mr Gibson was represented by Garden Court North Chambers’ Pete Weatherby QC and Matthew Stanbury.

The issue in the appeal was whether interest accrued on non-payment of confiscation orders affects penal enforcement. In other words, when part payments are made against a confiscation order, is the default term reduced in proportion to the original amount, or that amount with interest?

The Supreme Court accepted that the Secretary of State’s argument, that interest should affect penal enforcement, might well have been what parliament intended (§20). It noted, however, that for the Secretary of State’s construction to work it was necessary to do “no little violence” to the wording of section 79(2) of the Magistrates’ Court Act, a proper reading of which favoured Mr Gibson’s position. It concluded:

We have concluded that this straining of the wording of section 79(2) cannot be justified in circumstances where it would adversely impact on the period of imprisonment to which a person would be subject. Penal legislation is construed strictly, particularly where the penalty involves deprivation of liberty. The words of section 79(2) do not provide clearly for a period of imprisonment calculated on the basis for which the Secretary of State contends; on the contrary, they suggest the natural construction that the starting point for the arithmetical calculation of reduction in days of imprisonment is the sum outstanding at the time of the Crown Court order.

This appeal emphasises the importance of construing penal provisions strictly, and in favour of liberty, where there is ambiguity. Mr Gibson had lost in both the Administrative Court and the Court of Appeal.  The Supreme Court has now settled this issue which is of widespread application.

Pete Weatherby QC and Matthew Stanbury were instructed by Dean Kingham of Swain & Co, Havant.

Share this

Chambers news

Chambers news

The Northern Housing Conference: Housing law update, homelessness and the role of the law

Chambers' James Stark will be speaking about "absolute possession orders and how to avoid them" at NWHLPG's Conference on September 19th 2018.

Chambers news

Supreme Court declares law denying unmarried people widowed parent’s allowance incompatible with Convention rights

Tom Royston acted for CPAG in the matter of an application by Siobhan McLaughlin for Judicial Review (Northern Ireland) [2018] UKSC 48.

Chambers news

Permission granted in Parole Board independence case

A serving prisoner, represented by Matthew Stanbury, has been granted permission to challenge the independence of the Parole Board in a claim for judicial review.

Chambers news

Following judicial review, the DWP accepts it must pay up to an extra £150,000,000 to correct ESA errors in up to 70,000 cases

Tom Royston discusses R (Smith) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions JR/1249/2018.

Sign up to our mailing list

Our mailing list is dedicated to professionals with an interest in our work.

Sign up