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Fri Dec 4, 2015, 05:04 PM

Michael Gove scraps criminal courts charge

Judges and magistrates will be given greater discretion in imposing financial penalties, Michael Gove has promised, after he scrapped the mandatory criminal courts charge.

The justice secretary’s abrupt U-turn – in response to the protest resignations of more than 100 magistrates – ditches a money-raising scheme introduced by his predecessor Chris Grayling, which only came into force in April this year.


Gove had given broad hints that he intended to do away with the highly unpopular measure, which even the lord chief justice, Lord Thomas, had condemned as putting access to justice beyond the reach of most people and “imperilling a core principle of Magna Carta”.

Gove’s overturning of Grayling’s initiative is the latest in a series of policy reversals. The former justice secretary’s plan for a secure college for young offenders, a ban on books for prisoners, outsourcing the enforcement of court fines and a prisons training contract with Saudi Arabia have all been scrapped.

Imposition of the criminal courts charge is due to end on Christmas Eve. The mandatory charge was levied on any defendant who pleaded guilty or was convicted, on top of the victims’ surcharge, prosecution costs and fines. It started at £150 for those admitting guilt at magistrates court, rising to £1,200 for those found guilty at crown court – creating a financial disincentive to risk the uncertainty of a jury trial.

The swift decision implies that early returns from the criminal courts charge did not deliver the anticipated income of up to £135m a year that Grayling’s officials initially promised.


Just the latest supposed "money-saving" measure that hasn't delivered as promised, but in its brief existence has caused much misery and suffering, and in this case, no doubt miscarriages of justice.

Writing in the Independent, Labour MP Tulip Siddiq pledged to continue to press the government, posing four key questions:

First, will those who have already paid towards the charge be given the money back, and given no obligation to pay further? I have heard nothing from the Justice Secretary about this.

Second, I will be pressing for the Justice Secretary to confirm that all outstanding debts will be waived. Had it been fully implemented, the charge would have built up an additional £200m in outstanding debt to criminals, and under certain circumstances it is a criminal offence not to pay the charge. The Government’s own calculations factored in an additional £5m spending for prison places from it. I hope these debts will be cleared.

Third, what about those who have already built up additional debts trying to repay the charge? Many may have been forced to borrow money at high interest from payday lenders and others. No account has been given to the plight of these people.

And finally, what about those innocent people who may already have pleaded guilty because of the charge? We need an inquiry to identify these individuals.


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Reply Michael Gove scraps criminal courts charge (Original post)
Denzil_DC Dec 2015 OP
LeftishBrit Dec 2015 #1

Response to Denzil_DC (Original post)

Fri Dec 4, 2015, 05:22 PM

1. Chris Grayling was and is a vicious nutcase

And you know someone was a vicious nutcase when their more moderate and reasonable successor is Michael Gove!

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