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Abolishment of Criminal Courts Charge welcomed by Northumbria’s PCC

3rd December 2015

Secretary of State for Justice, Michael Gove, has today announced that the criminal courts charge is to be abolished, following increasing pressure from campaigners including Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Vera Baird QC.

For months the Commissioner has urged the Government to drop what she describes as  ‘unfair and unworkable charges’ and now, as of 24 December, the criminal courts charge will no longer be imposed.

Gove has listened to the criticism and also ordered a review of the entire structure, and purpose, of court-ordered financial impositions for offenders, in order to bring greater simplicity and clarity to the system, something also welcomed by Ms Baird.

Local Crown Prosecution Service, police and solicitors in Northumbria had all spoken to Ms Baird about the charge and had even confirmed to her that the practice of delaying cases to avoid repeat payments of the mandatory Criminal Courts Charge was commonplace.

Vera Baird said: “Justice is important and a tax that promoted fears that defendants were being encouraged to plead guilty to crimes they did not commit to avoid charges was ludicrous – it had to go. In many cases, the charge was responsible for delaying the whole process; seriously inconveniencing people or sustaining the stress or trauma on victims, who we must put first. I am delighted Michael Gove has seen sense and that within weeks we’ll see these charges gone for good.

“This isn’t the end of the matter though. The courts take money from offenders in a number of ways, including fines, the victim surcharge, compensation orders, prosecution costs and the Criminal Courts Charge. It can be complex and confusing and I welcome a review so steps can be made to improve the process for all concerned.”