Martin Partington: Spotlight on the Justice System

Keeping the English Legal System under review

Posts Tagged ‘criminal court charge

Abolition of the Criminal Court charge

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Prediction is a hazardous business. On 30 Novermber 2015, I wrote – in relation to the Criminal Court charge –

 While it is unlikely that there will be abolition so soon after introduction, my hunch is that the Government will be returning to the issue in the not too distant future.

Well I was both right and wrong: the Government has returned to the issue, but much more rapidly that most people anticipated.

Michael Gove, the Justice Secretary announced yesterday (3 Dec 2015) that the charge would be scrapped from 24 December 2015. The announcement was made to the Magistrates’ Association, a number of whose members had resigned from the magistracy over the imposition of the charge.

No doubt such a rapid change of mind will be portrayed as a U turn (though of course the initial decision to introduce the charge was taken by Gove’s predecessor Chris Grayling). But if a policy is shown to be absurd and not working, then surely it is more rational to change it rather than to doggedly adhere to it?

Anyway, at least on this occasion a rapid decision has been taken to kill off a policy was had drawn substantial criticism, not just from the magistrates but more widely from the legal world.

At the same time the Lord Chancellor has annouced to Parliament, perfectly sensibly in my view, that there should be a wider review of the different ways in which financial orders can be made against those convicted of crime – for example by fines, the victim surcharge, compensation orders, and making contribution to prosecution costs.

The Lord Chancellor would like to see a simpler and more rational structure of these different matters, which have developed over recent years in very piece meal fashion.

The Lord Chancellor’s statement is at: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/courts

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Written by lwtmp

December 4, 2015 at 10:31 am

The future of the Criminal Courts charge

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The Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 introduced the principle that those convicted of crimes should be required to make a contribution towards the costs of the criminal court. Regulations prescribe the charges that must be imposed:

Conviction by a magistrates’ court in proceedings conducted in accordance with section 16A of the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980 (trial by single justice on the papers)(a)

£150

Conviction by a magistrates’ court for a summary offence on a guilty plea

£150

Conviction by a magistrates’ court at a trial of a summary offence where (a) the defendant did not enter a plea, (b) the trial proceeded in the absence of the defendant, and (c) the court dealt with the case on the papers without reliance on any oral evidence

£150

Conviction by a magistrates’ court for an offence triable either-way on a guilty plea

£180

Conviction by a magistrates’ court at a trial of a summary offence

£520

Conviction by a magistrates’ court at a trial of an offence triable either way

£1000

Conviction by the Crown Court on a guilty plea

£900

Conviction by the Crown Court at a trial on indictment

£1200

Magistrates’ court when dealing with a person under section 21B(1)(b), (c) or (d) of the Prosecution of Offenders Act 1985

£100

Crown Court when dealing with a person under section 21 B(2)(b) or (c) of the Prosecution of Offenders Act 1985

£150

Crown Court dismissing an appeal by a person against conviction or sentence

£150

Court of Appeal dismissing an application for leave to bring an appeal under Part 1 of the Criminal Appeal Act 1968 against a person’s conviction or sentence

£150

Court of Appeal dismissing an appeal under Part 1 of the Criminal Appeal Act 1968 against a person’s conviction or sentence

£200

The charges have been criticised by many lawyers and judges on the basis that they have the potential to create a perverse incentive to plead guilty (and thereby attract a lower charge) even in cases where the case should go to trial. Press reports have suggested that the current Lord Chancellor, Michael Gove, is not unsympathetic to reviewing the rules, although the recent statement on Public Expenditure did not mention the charge.

Nonetheless, the Justice Select Committee decided that it would issue an urgent report on the matter. This was published on 20 November 2015. It recommended abolition, or, failing that, that sentencers should have discretion over whether or not to impose a charge and what the amount of the charge should be.

While it is unlikely that there will be abolition so soon after introduction, my hunch is that the Government will be returning to the issue in the not too distant future.

You can read the Justice Committee report at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmselect/cmjust/586/58602.htm

Written by lwtmp

November 30, 2015 at 10:43 am