Any person charged with an offence (committed on or after 13th April 2015) and brought before the Courts will face the prospect of having mandatory court costs imposed against them if convicted.

The Government has enacted part of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 under the auspices of saving the taxpayers money. Chris Grayling’s rhetoric is why should the majority of the law abiding public pay to run the courts for the law-breakers? The problem with such orders is firstly, will it encourage people who aren’t guilty to plead guilty to avoid the risk of incurring huge costs, or secondly, will the Government ever really recoup any of these costs or will it be simply another administrative burden on an already under-resourced public sector service?

As an example, Joe Bloggs, a man of no previous convictions, find himself facing a charge of handling stolen goods. He bought an tablet device from a popular website which offers things for sale from one person to another. He thought he was getting a good deal; he didn’t think the tablet was stolen. Now as a self-employed businessman he earns about £18,000 per year, but he doesn’t qualify for legal aid. He has to pay for his defence privately. He has his trial in the magistrates court and unfortunately, the court believes he did know or suspect the item was stolen and as such he is found guilty of the offence. He receives a fine of £150 as his punishment. He also has to pay the prosecution’s costs of £500 and a victim surcharge of £15. But now that is not all. Because he was convicted after trial in the magistrates court he faces the mandatory court costs of £1000. The total bill so far is £1665 excluding the costs of his own solicitor. The most expensive part of his case is the mandatory court costs, which vastly exceed the punishment he faced.

Would you rather face a bill in the thousands or plead guilty early and face a bill of a couple of hundred pounds? Herein is the risk of the innocence of people coming down to the cost involved, which is not justice!

Turns out that was one rather expensive tablet………….

Or how about the example of a person on job seekers allowance facing the above scenario? On £80 per fortnight how are they ever going to be able to repay sums in the thousands. The short answer is they are not. This means the Government will rack up even more debt to the courts, with little chance of ever getting any of it back.

What are your thoughts?