The Ministry of Justice faces a huge fight to recoup much of the £68.6m imposed through the unpopular - and now abandoned - criminal courts charge.

New figures published show the department was struggling to collect outstanding amounts when the policy was dropped on 24 December.

Of the £5.7m levied in the second quarter of 2015 - the first period of the charge - just 20% was paid back within six months of imposition.

Courts imposed £22m in new charges from July to September, but within three months just £2.9m was paid back.

In the final three months of 2015, the amounts imposed against convicted criminals rose significantly to £40.9m during the period.

But collection rates were almost identical in this period to the previous quarters, with just £2m (5%) paid back within a month.

The figures throw into doubt the government’s chances of recouping anywhere near the full amount imposed during the eight months of the charge.

The criminal courts charge, created in April 2015 by then justice secretary Chris Grayling, started at £150 for a guilty plea in the magistrates’ court. Grayling’s successor Michael Gove suspended the charge on 24 December and vowed to find other ways to ensure offenders contribute towards the costs of running the criminal justice system.

Prison reform group The Howard League said today the collection figures show how ‘unfair, unrealistic and unjust’ the charge was and that it disproportionately affected the most vulnerable.

The MoJ figures also reveal increases in waiting times for cases to be listed and resolved.

The time taken from receipt by the Crown court to the main hearing, and also from the main hearing to completion, has increased over the last two years.

The average number of days from first listing to completion rose from 164 to 204 days between Q2 2013 and Q2 2015, although it decreased to 195 days in the final quarter of 2015.

In the last two years, waiting times for triable either-way cases have increased overall by six weeks, while indictable cases take on average 4.2 weeks longer.