Have justice ministers been watching ITV? In the channel’s quiz show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, participants can opt to leave the process at various points – an early exit excluding both the loss of what you have acquired to date and the possibility of the ultimate ‘win’. Thus the game is attended by the thrill of witnessing an unwise call – the presenter tests much more than what people know.
The show has been widely franchised and now something of its format has been extended to the courts. In the dying days of this parliament, the lord chancellor laid a statutory instrument (2015 No. 796) that alters the criminal courts charge payable by a defendant who is found guilty. The amount payable for proceeding to trial is dramatically increased and a ‘means test’ will no longer apply.
The principle of the charge is not new, but as framed in this SI it creates an incentive to exit the process early by the only means possible – a guilty plea.
The soundbite that accompanies confirmation of the introduction of the fees is pretty accessible: ‘Those who commit crime pay their way.’ But the language of the SI (‘Made’, 19 March; ‘Laid before parliament’, 23 March; ‘Coming into force’, 13 April), would have left most MPs needing to phone a friend.
Was anyone supposed to notice? We couldn’t possibly comment.