The head of the judiciary in England and Wales said today that the criminal courts charge introduced by the last government for guilty defendants has ‘not gone correctly’ and needs to be reviewed ‘as soon as possible’.

Answering questions from journalists, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, the lord chief justice, said that imposing the charge on top of other levies ‘is not raising much money’ and has increased the number of people who cannot pay.

He likened that to the situation posed by fixed penalty notices, where individuals found ‘very significant sums levied against them which they had absolutely no prospect of paying’.

When a policy ‘has not gone correctly’ it should be looked at again, he said. 

Pressed on what he meant by ‘not gone correctly’, Lord Thomas (pictured) said: ‘It is obvious that there is a problem with financial penalties as a whole, so I would hope this is an area the government will engage with as soon as possible but in a wider context,’ he said. 

‘That’s why I very much hope that the lord chancellor will look at the matter in the round, and perhaps find an interim solution.’

Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd said that the courts system as currently established would not be able to cope with a combination of spending cuts and an increased workload of complex sex, cybercrime and terrorism cases. ‘The only way forward is reform.’

He said that progress is being made on the Leveson proposals for increasing efficiency in criminal courts, but that more needs to be done. 

Containing a rise in costs is ‘critical to reform’, he said, noting that: ‘As for lawyers, the market has been good for them on the whole. Legal fees are high.’