Following 13 April 2015, defendants who attend a Criminal Court and either plead guilty or are found guilty of any offence in England and Wales will have to pay up to £1,200 towards the cost of their court case under The Prosecution of Offences Act 1985 (Criminal Courts Charge) Regulations 2015, it has been revealed.
The Regulation can be found here – http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2015/796/pdfs/uksi_20150796_en.pdf
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said the Criminal Courts Charge would ensure criminals “pay their way”. A government assessment suggested that in 2020 the system could raise £135m after costs.
The fees, which come into force on 13 April 2015, are not means-tested and will start at £100.
The Magistrates Association has warned that the new charge could place a further financial burden on people on low incomes as the fee will be paid on top of fines, compensation orders and defendants’ own legal costs.
It also warned that innocent people could be encouraged to plead guilty to avoid the risk of higher payments, as those who admit their offence will pay less than those convicted after a trial.
It said the scheme should be reviewed after six months.
How much will I have to pay?
The Criminal Courts charge is a fixed amount and the lowest amount is £100 and the highest possible charge is £1200 before the Crown Court.
The charge will not be linked to the sentence given, but will be set according to its type of case, with the minimum charge for magistrates courts and the maximum level for crown court cases as above.
The charge will be payable by instalments.
But the Magistrates Association has warned that by the time the scheme is reviewed the court service will be owed £1bn in unpaid fees and that this Criminal Courts charge is only likely to increase the outstanding amount owed.
The courts already have the power to award “costs” against defendants as part of sentence, but that is to reimburse any expenditure by the prosecution in bringing the case to court and the court decides it would be “just and reasonable” to have those paid by a defendant.
The new charge then in effect will mean that offenders are making a direct contribution to the costs of running the court itself.
Presently, convicted defendants can be ordered to make payments to cover compensation for victims, as well as a Victim Surcharge – which funds victims’ services separate then to the actual sentence itself, which in some cases can be a fine.
Mr Grayling said: “We’re on the side of people who work hard and want to get on, and that is why these reforms will make sure that those who commit crime pay their way and contribute towards the cost of their court cases.”