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Criminal Proceedings: Fees and Charges

Question for Ministry of Justice

UIN 6615, tabled on 13 July 2015

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what recent representations he has received on the effect of the criminal courts charge.

Answered on

30 July 2015

This government believes that convicted adult offenders should pay towards the costs of running the criminal courts. Recovering some of these costs from convicted offenders will reduce the burden on taxpayers.

My department has received representations from the magistracy and defence practitioners about the criminal courts charge.

Only convicted offenders pay the criminal courts charge. This means that those who are found not guilty by the courts will not be required to pay the charge. We are confident that this mitigates against any adverse effects that may distort offenders’ decisions.

The provisions are purely about recovering court costs and are completely separate from the offender’s sentence. It would therefore go against the principles of the legislation to allow judicial discretion regarding whether or not to impose the charge or the amount to impose.

The government recognises the need to make sure offenders are given a fair opportunity to pay the charge. The court is able to set payment terms in affordable instalments. Offenders can also contact a fines officer at any point to request variations in payment terms if their circumstances change. An offender can also apply to have the charge cancelled after two years where they take all reasonable steps to pay it and do not reoffend. It is for the court to decide whether all reasonable steps have been taken to pay the charge, having regard to the offender’s personal circumstances, such as unemployment or poor health.

The provisions include a requirement to review the policy after three years.