Mansfield lawyer welcomes the scrapping of ‘despised’ court charge

Mansfield Magistrates Court.
Mansfield Magistrates Court.

A leading Mansfield lawyer has welcomed the scrapping of court charges that left defendants having to pay out hundreds of pounds for the most petty of crimes.

The criminal courts charge, which was only introduced in April last year, meant those convicted had to pay out between £150 and £1,200.

That was in addition to a fine, the court costs and victim surcharges, and magistrates had no option but to impose the levy.

The charges were unpopular among solicitors, who felt they unfairly penalised the most vulnerable and desperate in society - many of which had no means by which to pay.

Simon King, of Elliot Mather LLP, on Wood Street, Mansfield, previously spoke out about the charges calling them “grossly unfair”.

He said that even the homeless, who had been caught stealing basic food, were hit with the minimum £150 charge.

Most have been unable to pay, and ran the risk of being jailed.

The charges also rocketed if a defendant pleaded not-guilty and was found guilty after a trial.

Mr King said because of this it encouraged people to admit guilt, even if they were innocent.

He told the Chad: “It was an ill-conceived policy. It was supposed to raise £80 million per year but in its first six months only collected £600,000.

“All those who are concerned with fairness in the criminal justice system are glad to see its demise.

“It was widely condemned from its inception from every side of the criminal justice system.

“Judges despised it, magistrates - over 50 of them - resigned in protest, defence solicitors were appalled at the effect of it and victims no longer receive compensation for the injuries that they had suffered.

“One of the greatest injustices that concerned the defence was that people were choosing to plead guilty even when they were innocent because they could not afford to pay a courts charge of £1,000.”

Last July the House of Commons select committee on justice added their concerns over the charge and it was eventually abolished by Lord Chancellor Michael Gove.

It came into effect on Christmas Eve.