Michael Gove has today announced plans that will see the controversial criminal courts charge abolished. This was a new charge imposed from April 2015 on every defendant convicted of any criminal offence.
In a ministerial statement to Parliament, the Lord Chancellor said: “The basic principle behind the policy – that those who have broken the law should bear some of the costs of running the criminal courts – is right. However, as the Justice Select Committee set out in its recent report, there have been concerns raised about how this has worked in practice.”
In order to reverse the charge, a statutory instrument has been laid in Parliament confirming that the levy will no longer be imposed from 24th December 2015.
Gove had previously hinted that the charges might be scrapped and last month, the Justice Select Committee was highly critical about its workings and effect: it recommended that it be abolished. Since its introduction earlier in the year, large numbers of Magistrates had resigned in protest at the charge.
In his statement, Gove also announced a review into financial penalties criticising the current array of penalties, fines and charges. The review will consider “alternative ways of ensuring that criminals pay their fair share”.
Criticism of the charge had centred on a number of issues:
- incentivising defendants to plead guilty (when innocent) through the threat of higher charges following trials;
- the charges being fixed and not means-tested;
- the charges were often far larger than the fine imposed in the case and interfered with the court’s sentencing approach to reach the correct penalty for an offence;
- the likelihood of low collection rates;
- fines are already imposed to mark society’s disapproval.
For further information, please contact a member of our Crime and Regulatory team.