In the Media

Man banned from paying court fine with pennies

PUBLISHED August 4, 2006

A man who has been banned from bringing 4,000 pennies to court every month to pay off a driving fine today vowed he was willing to go to prison to defend his right to pay the way he chooses.

Court staff in south Wales have banned Michael Rees from paying his ?40 monthly instalments for a careless driving conviction ? which he disputes ? in bronze coins. They claim they are not legally bound to accept the instalments under the 1971 Coinage Act.

Mr Rees, 41, of Tonteg, south Wales, was convicted of careless driving in 2003 and ordered to pay a ?250 fine. He racked up a further ?400 costs after unsuccessfully appealing the ruling.

Mr Rees claimed he has paid "every penny" of his instalments so far, with ?110 outstanding. Every month, he goes to the bank, changes ?40 worth of notes into pennies, removes the pennies from their bags and takes them to court.

"I take all the pennies out of each individual bag. I rip the bags open and I empty them in a big sack so it gives them a job to count them," he said. "It?s funny to watch."

He added: "This is the way I feel. I could not prove my innocence. If I am not allowed to pay the pennies then I?m going to be in contempt of court. I?m willing to go to prison for it. I?m going to pay it the way I feel I should pay it. I?ve been dealt a raw deal."

Steve Miller, the clerk to the Miskin, Cynon Valley and Merthyr Tydfil magistrates? courts, defended the court staff's decision not to accept the coppers as legal tender.

"Mr Rees is not unique," he said. "I have had a number of people who feel aggrieved about a financial penalty and try to pay the fines in pennies. It does happen every now and again. The reason we have always said no is it means staff have to spend two or three hours counting out pennies and bagging them. Staff are employed to be doing different things from that."

Referring to the Coinage Act 1971, Mr Miller said: "We are not legally obliged to take any more than 20p in copper." Exceptions would only be made for genuine cases.

A spokesman for the Court Service backed Mr Miller?s point that staff were not obliged to accept payments over 20p in bronze coins.

"Anything over 20p in bronze is not legal tender," he said. "You don?t have to accept it."