The Lord Chancellor introduced a measure that will impact significantly on any person who finds themselves involved with the Magistrates’ Courts on any road traffic matter such as speeding, careless driving, or any other technical or low level breach of the law where the incident occurs after 12th April 2015. The idea was said to be ‘to make criminals pay for the criminal justice system’. He called it the Criminal Courts Charge.
In reality, the people who will be paying will be those ordinary working people who make a simple error and who, because they are normally law abiding, will have the income or assets to pay this extra cost. Regular offenders will tend not to have any income or assets to meet the payment. Non payment of this penalty is punishable by imprisonment no matter how low level the allegation.
If your case goes to court and you fight the allegation believing in your innocence or simply wanting to explain the circumstances to reduce the penatly, if the magistrates disagree with you they must order you to pay an extra £520 for the privilege of having the case tested, no matter how brief the hearing. The charges increase if the case gets to the crown court no matter how it gets there.
Nowadays ordinary law abiding people will have to make decisions on whether to accept a fixed penalty or whether to make false admissions for a police caution based on financial considerations rather than guilt due to the clear threat that now exists of a large extra financial penalty no matter how low level the misdemeanour or punishment.
Often people will not have taken legal advice and will not understand that taking a police caution for an allegation of eg common assault or petty theft will be recorded as a criminal record by the police and will disqualify you from many occupations, from helping out at your child’s school, restrict travel to other countries…
This is not an idea to make criminals pay, it is a way to make ordinary people pay for a system that is part of the State and payable by the State. It is an indirect further tax on working families. It is tarring people with the ‘criminal’ label indiscriminately. The impact is to convict more people, more easily and more cheaply whether or not they are guilty of a crime.