Gove scraps criminal courts charge


The controversial criminal courts charge would be ditched from 24 December 2015, the Lord Chancellor announced.

In a written statement, Michael Gove said that the Ministry of Justice will review the entire structure and purpose of the ‘complex and confusing’ financial penalties.

He said the review will seek to give judges greater discretion in setting financial penalties, make fines a more effective sentencing tool and ensure the money raised goes to meet court running costs.

More than 50 magistrates have resigned since the mandatory charge levied on all convicted offenders was introduced by Gove’s predecessor, Chris Grayling, last spring.

Gove stressed that the principle behind the policy – that those who have broken the law should bear some of the costs of running the criminal courts – is right. But, as the justice committee, which called for its abolition, pointed out in its critical report in the autumn, concerns have been raised, including from the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, about how it has worked in practice.

‘Our review will consider alternative ways of ensuring that criminals pay their fair share,’ said Gove.

Welcoming the change, Bar Council Chairman, Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC, said: ‘The charge created a perverse incentive to plead guilty, negated the principle of judicial discretion, reduced compensation awards and was never likely to raise the funds anticipated.’

She added: ‘The Ministry of Justice has clearly listened very carefully to members from both Houses and from across all political parties, as well as to the legal profession, and others who have campaigned on this issue.’

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