MoJ probes new ways of raising cash from offenders

Topics: Courts business,Government & politics

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The first indications of how the government plans to raise income from convicted offenders following the abolition of the criminal courts charge emerged today.

A Ministry of Justice review of financial impositions on criminal courts will examine new ways of generating additional revenue and enforcing payment orders. 

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A terms of reference document published today states that the review will make recommendations ‘with a view to achieving three primary goals’.

Judges will be granted ‘greater discretion’ to set financial impositions and financial penalties will be made ‘a more effective sentencing tool’. The changes will also ensure that funding generated through financial penalties ‘plays an appropriate part - and sustainable - role in meeting court-running costs and reducing the burden on the taxpayer’.

The ministry said the review will produce a report focusing on:

  • The current framework of imposition arrangements, exemptions, discretion, accounting arrangements and legislative provision;
  • Evidence of known information about offenders’ means and current payment arrangements;
  • Domestic and international evidence on the most effective form of financial penalties;
  • The scope to generate additional revenue and how current receipts are allocated; and
  • Modernisation of enforcement services.

The review will attempt to fill the funding gap left by the abolition of the criminal courts charge in December, which levied £150 for a guilty plea in a magistrates’ court and £520 on the defendant if convicted following a not-guilty plea.

When he scrapped the charge in December justice secretary Michael Gove announced that the ministry would also review the entire structure of court-ordered financial impositions for offenders.

Today's announcement suggests that one possibility mooted at the time, a levy on City firms, could now be on the back-burner. The mention of 'modernisation of enforcement' may also imply that outsourcing of fine enforcement, aborted last October, is back on the agenda. 

The review will be led by the ministry and Justice and Courts Policy Group. It will be supported by a MoJ working group of officials including analytical services, HM Courts and Tribunals Service enforcement and corporate finance.

A senior civil service level board will 'oversee progress’ and provide 'strategic direction’ to the review, the document states.

A Law Society spokesperson said: 'We welcomed Michael Gove's abandonment of the criminal courts charge, and look forward to engaging with this review, to ensure that financial penalties are applied appropriately and proportionately.'

Readers' comments (11)

  • How much public money and time do they intend on wasting in this latest exercise? Will the effect not be exactly the same as the ill-fated CCC?

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  • Make them sew mail bags, dig roads - or something equally gruelling like working for Apple for instance.

    LB

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  • Make them practice as solicitors, perhaps?

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  • These charlatans should all be imprisoned themselves for fraud. As I thought that tha whole purpose of punishing criminals was to make it such that the public would be made to feel safer where as a result of their punishment, the assailant would not wished to get done for it again. And NOT for this suggested purpose which is clearly for the making of the SYSTEM, some more REVENUE. A disgrace.

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  • Very good anonymous at 04:47 - very good; though don't you think that fate should really be reserved for only the most heinous of crimes?

    LB

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  • Crime pays - well, at least it does if you're the state!

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  • LB and Anon 4.47 even the US Constitution bans 'cruel and unusual' punishment. Keeping a guy in solitary for 50 years is OK, but surely making anyone practise as a solicitor...

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  • I wish the MoJ would grow up. This mindset that Justice is a "burden on the taxpayer" has lead the MoJ and the LAA to come up with all sorts of idiotic proposals eg Two Tier and before that Unit Fines amongst many other initiatives.
    I have nothing against the guilty paying for the cost of the prosecution and of the defence IF THE PERSON CAN AFFORD IT. A proper Means Enquiry followed by a form of POCA might address the issue but ONLY IF the cost of running the process is not prohibitive.

    Dear Mr Gove
    Come out of your bunker and speak to Solicitors, Court Clerks, Probation Officers and Prosecutors and help develop a Justice system that works. Listening to the Executives at MoJ/LAA and those people who lead the Court and Tribunal Service and CPS and National Probation has not worked. Anytime you fancy a chat please do get in touch.

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  • Have these people in the MoJ ever met an offender?

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  • As most crims have no traceable assets or source of income perhaps it might be sensible to provide that if they don't pay they become liable to forfeit an organ that the could lose without croaking - a kidney, or a lung, for example. I suspect

    This would be far more use to the public than a few quid, the cost of collecting which must far outweigh the amount. It would also make the crim feel that they were for the first time in their life a worthwhile member of society.

    Those chaps at the MoJ just need to be more creative.

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