Another Tory U-turn: Gove scraps ‘nonsense on stilts’ criminal courts charge

The justice secretary, Michael Gove, has scrapped the mandatory criminal courts charge after more than 100 magistrates resigned in protest.

The abrupt U-turn ditches a money-raising scheme introduced by the previous justice secretary, Chris Grayling, that only came into force in April this year. Imposition of the criminal courts charge is due to end on Christmas Eve.

The swift decision implies that early returns from the criminal courts charge did not deliver the anticipated income of up to £135m a year that Grayling’s officials initially promised.

Gove made the announcement in an address to the annual meeting of the Magistrates Association in central London. “The basic principle behind the policy – that those who have broken the law should bear some of the costs of running the criminal courts – is right,” Gove said.

“However, as the justice select committee set out in its recent report, there have been concerns raised about how this has worked in practice.”

“Whenever I have had the opportunity to talk to magistrates over the last six months, the criminal courts charge has been raised and in almost every case it has been criticised.”

Critics said the criminal courts charge – ranging from £150 up to £1,200 – was unlikely to be collected in many cases and created a perverse incentive for the innocent to plead guilty.

The mandatory charge was levied on any defendant who pleaded guilty or was convicted, on top of the victims’ surcharge, prosecution costs and fines. It started at £150 for those admitting guilt at magistrates court, rising to £1,200 for those found guilty at crown court – creating a financial disincentive to risk the uncertainty of a jury trial.

Malcolm Richardson, the Magistrates Association national chairman, is quoted as saying: “In all my years on the bench, I’ve never seen something strike so hard at the heart of justice.

“Although we have lost many experienced magistrates, there will be an enormous sense of relief across the criminal justice system.”

Gove’s overturning of Grayling’s initiative is the latest in a series of policy reversals. The former justice secretary’s plan for a secure college for young offenders, a ban on books for prisoners, outsourcing the enforcement of court fines and a prisons training contract with Saudi Arabia have all been scrapped.

Ben Summerskill, director of the Criminal Justice Alliance said: “We’re delighted at the government’s decision. Introducing a charge which created an incentive to plead guilty to a crime someone hadn’t committed wasn’t justice, it was nonsense on stilts.”

Source: Michael Gove scraps criminal courts charge | Law | The Guardian

Join the Vox Political Facebook page.

If you have appreciated this article, don’t forget to share it using the buttons at the bottom of this page. Politics is about everybody – so let’s try to get everybody involved!

Vox Political needs your help!
If you want to support this site
but don’t want to give your money to advertisers)
you can make a one-off donation here:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Buy Vox Political books so we can continue
fighting for the facts.

Health Warning: Government! is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

The first collection, Strong Words and Hard Times,
is still available in either print or eBook format here:


9 thoughts on “Another Tory U-turn: Gove scraps ‘nonsense on stilts’ criminal courts charge

  1. Ian

    Can’t wait for the U-turn to end all U-turns, when, as a consequence of IS reprisal attacks in the UK/the non-appearance of the phantom 75,000 ground forces/the refusal of Russia to remove Assad/the abject failure of the whole Syrian venture, Cameron has to rush as quickly away from this war as he plunged headlong into it this week.

  2. gfranklinpercival

    “The basic principle behind the policy – that those who have broken the law should bear some of the costs of running the criminal courts – is right,” Gove said.

    The man is an oaf. Taxation is what pays for civilisation.

  3. Mr.Angry

    Great another U turn what a disastrous ridiculous policy, Grayling should be working in an indoor market, he destroyed my Sons legal practice thanks to his reforms and 130 staff along with it.

    They are creaking at the seams it seems GOOD.

  4. Dez

    Thank god this useless piece of legislation was sent back whence it came. Why do they keep producing such ill thought out junk that normal folk can see is junk yet they cannot. Takes the exit of JP’s and much peer pressure before they engage their last remaining brain cell – you know the cell marked common sense. As we know them Hoorays don’t do “common” hence it is always the last cell to kick in. What a bunch. If they were a real Company they would have gone bankrupt …Eeer I suppose with the size of their UK debt mountain….they are technically well broke !!

  5. Dez

    Why must it take the loss of so many front line JPs and angry learned legal opinions
    to finally get through to these Hoorays that this piece of money grabbing junk should never have got on the runway. What brainless civil servant, or worse elected member of parliament, wasted so much time and caused so much disruption on something so stupid. Once again they are late engaging their last brain cell, the most important cell, labelled common sense. Common sense will never happen for the Cons because they don’t do “common” being blinded by greed, power and money grabbing.

  6. Jo

    About time, although Pob had no choice really, with the open revolt of magistrates likely to get worse.
    Glad this cruel charge has gone.

Comments are closed.