Criminal Courts Charge

Criminal Courts Charge

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Legislation: Prosecution of Offences Act 1985 ss.21A-21F as inserted by Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 s.54, commenced by SI 2015/778.

Commencement: 13 April 2015

Transitional provisions: The charge applies only to persons convicted of an offence committed after 13 April 2015, CJCA 2015 s.54(4).

When must the charge be imposed? 

Magistrates’ Courts

A magistrates’ court must make an order under section 21A at the following times—

(a) when dealing with the person for the offence;

(b) when dealing with the person under Schedule 8 to the Criminal Justice Act 2003 for failure to comply with any of the requirements of a community order;

(c) when dealing with the person under Schedule 12 to the Criminal Justice Act 2003 for failure to comply with any of the community requirements of a suspended sentence order;

(d) when dealing with the person under section 256AC of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 for failure to comply with a supervision requirement imposed under section 256AA of that Act, POA 1985 s.21B.

Crown Court

The Crown Court must make an order under section 21A at the following times—

(a) when dealing with the person for the offence;

(b) when dealing with the person under Schedule 8 to the Criminal Justice Act 2003 for failure to comply with any of the requirements of a community order;

(c) when dealing with the person under Schedule 12 to the Criminal Justice Act 2003 for failure to comply with any of the community requirements of a suspended sentence order;

(d) when dismissing an appeal by the person against conviction or sentence for the offence, POA 1985 s.21B.

Court of Appeal

The Court of Appeal must make an order under section 21A at the following times—

(a) when dismissing an appeal under Part 1 of the Criminal Appeal Act 1968 against the person’s conviction or sentence for the offence;

(b) when dismissing an application for leave to bring such an appeal, POA 1985 s.21B.

When the charge unavailable? 

An order under section 21A(1) of the POA 1985 (criminal courts charge) must not be made against a person (“P”) convicted of an offence in the following cases—

(a) Where the offence was committed when the offender was aged under 18, POA 1985 s.21A(2).

(b) where a court deals with P for the offence by making an order discharging P absolutely under section 12 of the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 (absolute discharge), SI 2015/796 reg.2(1)

(c) where a court deals with P for the offence by making in respect of P an order under section 37(1) of the MHA 1983 (power of courts to order hospital admission or guardianship) or a direction under section 45A(3) of the MHA 1983 (power of higher courts to order hospital admission), SI 2015/796 reg.2(1)

(d) where the Crown Court dismisses an appeal against conviction or sentence for the offence following a reference by the Criminal Cases Review Commission under section 11(1) of the CAA 1995 (cases dealt with summarily in England and Wales), SI 2015/796 reg.2(1)

(e) where the Court of Appeal dismisses an appeal for the offence under Part 1 of the CAA 1968 following a reference by the Criminal Cases Review Commission under section 9(1) of the CAA 1995 (cases dealt with on indictment in England and Wales, SI 2015/796 reg.2(1)

(f) an order must not be made in respect of a failure to comply with an order under section 21B where a court deals with a person in the same proceedings—

(i) for an offence; and

(ii) for a failure to comply with a requirement mentioned in section 21B of the POA 1985 (criminal courts charge: courts and times), SI 2015/796 reg.2(2) and (3)

(g) in respect of the failure to comply, where a court deals with a person in the same proceedings for a failure to comply with more than one of the requirements mentioned in section 21B of the POA 1985 and paragraph (3) does not apply, SI 2015/796 reg.2(4) and (5)

How much is the charge?

The table below sets out the charges.

Committal for sentence Where, following the summary conviction of a person (“P”) for an offence, a magistrates’ court commits P to the Crown Court for sentence and the Crown Court accordingly deals with P for the offence, the charge the Crown Court must order to be paid is the amount in column 2 of the table which corresponds to the amount the magistrates’ court would have had to order had P not been committed to the Crown Court for sentence, SI 2015/796 reg.3.

Multiple offences Where more than one entry in column 1 of the table applies, the charge the court must order to be paid is the amount in column 2 which corresponds to the entry which results in the highest amount, SI 2015/796 reg.3.

Pleas entered after start of trial Where a person (“P”) changes P’s plea from not guilty to guilty after the start of a summary or Crown Court trial the charge the court must order to be paid is the amount that would have applied if P had not changed the plea, SI 2015/796 reg.3.

(a) the start of a summary trial is the time when the prosecution opens its case;

(b) the start of a Crown Court trial is—

(i) the time when a jury is sworn; or

(ii) where a trial takes place without a jury, the time when the prosecution opens its case, SI 2015/796 reg.3.

Column 1                                                                                                                             Column 2
Conviction by a magistrates’ court in proceedings conducted in accordance with section 16A of the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980 (trial by single justice on the papers) £150
Conviction by a magistrates’ court for a summary offence on a guilty plea £150
Conviction by a magistrates’ court at a trial of a summary offence where (a) the defendant did not enter a plea, (b) the trial proceeded in the absence of the defendant, and (c) the court dealt with the case on the papers without reliance on any oral evidence £150
Conviction by a magistrates’ court for an offence triable either-way on a guilty plea £180
Conviction by a magistrates’ court at a trial of a summary offence £520
Conviction by a magistrates’ court at a trial of an offence triable either way £1,000
Conviction by the Crown Court on a guilty plea £900
Conviction by the Crown Court at a trial on indictment £1,200
Magistrates’ court when dealing with a person under section 21B(1)(b), (c) or (d) of the POA 1985 £100
Crown Court when dealing with a person under section 21B(2)(b) or (c) of the POA 1985 £150
Crown Court dismissing an appeal by a person against conviction or sentence £150
Court of Appeal dismissing an application for leave to bring an appeal under Part 1 of the CAA 1968 against a person’s conviction or sentence £150
Court of Appeal dismissing an appeal under Part 1 of the CAA 1968 against a person’s conviction or sentence £200

(SI 2015/796 Sch.1)

Power to remit the charge

A magistrates’ court may remit the whole or part of a charge ordered to be paid by a person but it may remit the charge only if:

(a) it is satisfied that the person has taken all reasonable steps to pay it, having regard to the person’s personal circumstances, or

(b) it is satisfied that collection and enforcement of the charge is impracticable, POA 1985 s.21E.

Charge may not be remitted It may not remit the charge at a time when the person is detained in prison.

It may not remit the charge unless each of following has expired—

(a) a specified period beginning with the day on which an order under section 21A was last made in respect of the person;

(b) a specified period beginning with the day on which the person was last convicted of an offence;

(c) where relevant, a specified period beginning with the day on which the person was last released from prison, POA 1985 s.21E.

The period specified is:

(a) where the person liable to pay the charge has made the application to a magistrates’ court to remit the charge, two years;

(b) in any other case, 12 months, SI 2015/796 reg.4.

Defaulters Where a court remits a charge under section 21A after an order has been made under section 300(2) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (power to impose unpaid work requirement etc on fine defaulter) for default in paying the charge (or the charge and other amounts), the court must:

(a) reduce the total number of hours or days to which the order relates by the same proportion as the amount remitted bears to the total amount in respect of which the order was made, or

(b) if the total number of hours or days would be reduced to nil under paragraph (a), revoke the order, POA 1985 s.21E.

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Lyndon is the General Editor of Current Sentencing Practice and the Criminal Appeal Reports (Sentencing)

6 COMMENTS

  1. This charge is outrageous as it will lead to low-wage clients (of good character) pleading guilty (where they have a good defence or there is no evidence) because they cannot afford the criminal courts charge if they lose their trial.

  2. If the Crown decides to bring charges against someone in court then it should be prepared to pay for this. When a person has been found guilty and an appropriate sentence determined, that should be the penalty that should be paid.

    I remember hearing that in China after a person has face the death penalty by firing squad his family are charged for the cost of the bullets. I did not think that we would apply the same principle to our own legal system.

  3. This was discussed on BBC Radio 5 Live earlier this week. The line up was a lefty JP who resigned on principle over this, a lawyer who is against it and the token prosecution lawyer who defended the charge. As per BBC practice the JP was given massive amounts of air time to build straw men arguements and pontificate at length about the awful consequences for the “poor”. In the short but concise comment from the prosecutor she said that the charge only applies if found guilty and dont commit the crime in the first place if you dont want to take the chance. Cue more wailing and tears from the JP and yet even more incredulous situations put forward to justify his outrage.

    I apologise in advance for not listening to Radio 4. Must do better next next time.

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