New regulations have been introduced today under the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985 (Criminal Courts Charge) Regulations 2015 which impose a compulsory Criminal Courts Charge on any defendant convicted of an offence in a Criminal Court on or after 13 April 2015.
The Ministry of Justice has advised these charges have been introduced in order to reduce financial burden on innocent taxpayers and will mean that adult offenders and corporate bodies who use our criminal courts will contribute towards the running costs of the court. Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has said the Criminal Courts Charge would ensure that criminals ‘pay their way’.
The Criminal Courts Charges are set according to the cost of the case and will be imposed on top of fines, prosecution costs and defendants’ own legal costs which are already imposed upon conviction of a criminal charge.
The court will not be able to impose a sentence taking these charges into account and these charges will be imposed regardless of the seriousness of the offence or the ability of the offender to pay. However, the charge may be remissible if not paid within two years provided the defendant does not reoffend in that period.
There are set levels of charges applicable which are dependent upon both the defendant’s plea and which Court the case is heard in:
- For Summary only offences heard in the Magistrates’ court (this includes most motoring offences such as speeding and drink driving) the charges will be £150 for a guilty plea and £520 if convicted after a trial.
- For Indictment only offences (this includes any motoring offence involving a fatality or the serious offence of perverting the course of justice) which are heard in the Crown court the charges will be £900 for a guilty plea and £1200 if convicted after trial.
- For Either way offences, such as dangerous driving, for a guilty plea in the Magistrates’ Court a charge of £180 will be imposed, or if convicted after trial in Magistrates’ Court a charge of £1000 will be added to the defendant’s sentence and will go up to £1200 if a defendant is convicted in the Crown Court.
The Law Society President Andrew Caplan has described these new charges as ‘outrageous’ and a threat to a fair trial, as the new charges may affect an innocent person’s decision to defend their case due to having to factor in the risk of higher charges should they be found guilty following a trial.