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Mandatory payments imposed on convicted defendants should be abolished, say MPs

View profile for Elizabeth Bradshaw
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MPs on the parliamentary justice select committee have raised concerns about the criminal courts charge, calling for its abolition 'as soon as possible'.

Since April 2015, convicted criminals in England and Wales have had to pay a charge, which is not means tested, of between £150 and £1,200 towards the cost of their case.

The fee is paid on top of fines, compensation orders and defendants' own legal charges, and is higher for those convicted after pleading not guilty.

More than 50 magistrates have resigned over the fee, whilst some courts have been handing down absolute discharges to avoid imposing it.

The select committee's report, available here, said the charge created 'serious problems' and was often 'grossly disproportionate'.

A key concern is that defendants are strongly incentivised to plead guilty due to financial considerations, and may feel pressured to do so even where they are innocent.

Additionally, the committee's report said the lack of discretion for judges and magistrates on the level of the charge was creating 'unacceptable consequences'.

The report casts doubt on the government's claims that the charges could deliver net revenue of £80m to £160m a year by 2023.

The Ministry of Justice is currently reviewing the operation of the fee.

If you require legal advice or representation on current or pending prosecution please contact Elizabeth Bradshaw on either 01206 369889 or bradshawe@gepp.co.uk 

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.