A judge who offered to pay a defendant’s victim surcharge has been issued with ‘formal advice’ after his comment was considered to lack impartiality.

A statement posted by the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office today said His Honour Judge Jonathan Durham Hall QC (pictured) was subject to a conduct investigation into complaints following a comment he made during sentencing.

The JCIO said Hall ‘stated that he would pay the victim surcharge himself if the defendant were forced to pay’.

The lord chancellor and lord chief justice ‘considered this failed to demonstrate impartiality, and that his comment amounted to misconduct’, the JCIO said. Hall has been issued with formal advice.

The statement does not provide any further details about the case. The JCIO said today it could not expand on published statements.

The victim surcharge was introduced by the government in April 2007, and was paid only by people punished with a fine, at a flat rate of £15. It was increased and extended in 2012. Further increases came into force a year ago.

Concerns from some parts of the magistracy about the latest increases were highlighted by shadow justice spokesperson Lord Beecham (Jeremy Beecham) last year.

The Labour peer said frustrations expressed to him by a magistrate following a case ‘disclose a matter for real concern given magistrates’ hands are tied in being required to impose what is, in effect, an additional penalty without discretion, in circumstances which are unrealistic’.

The magistrate told Beecham that they did not object to offenders receiving an additional charge, but were also aware that those leaving custody who are on benefits have to wait up to six weeks for their benefit payments to recommence.