Fees could force guilty pleas, warn lawyers

Convicted defendants will have to pay fees of up to £1,200 towards the cost of their case, under provisions of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015, which came into force on 13 April.


The new charges start at £150 for those who plead guilty to a summary offence in the magistrates’ court, rising to £500 following conviction in the magistrates’ court, and £1,200 for those convicted following a Crown court trial

Lord Chancellor, Chris Grayling MP, said the charge will ensure criminals “pay their way”, but critics have warned that the fees, which were introduced without consultation, risk encouraging the innocent to plead guilty and add to the mountain of uncollected debt owed to the court service.

Bar Chairman, Alistair MacDonald QC, said: “In times of austerity, it is difficult to argue against the proposition that convicted offenders should make a contribution towards the cost of their trial.” But, he said charging fees of £1,200 is “completely unrealistic”.

He said the Bar Council is reviewing its policy on criminal court fees and will be making representations to government about it.

The Act contained a range of law changes, the creation of new offences and increased prison terms for terrorism offences and internet trolling.

New offences included revenge porn, punishable with a sentence of up to two years in jail, and four crimes of juror misconduct.

It also introduced controversial changes limiting access to judicial review, which the Government claims will speed up the process and cut the number of meritless claims “clogging” the courts.

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