Quote: "This month, a woman who stole a 75p packet of Mars bars was fined £328. She hadn’t eaten in days, had no money for food due to her benefits being withheld, and was so desperate that she stole the cheapest food item in the shop.
If it hadn’t been for a generous online observer,
who campaigned to fund the fine, she would eventually have been hauled
in front of the court again and potentially faced a prison sentence for
failing to produce the money.
Her story caused outrage at the lack of compassion and common sense
that the court’s decision revealed. But the most sinister part of this
news is that such ridiculous stories are cropping up in courts all over
the country, due to a new legal fee the government included in the Criminal Justice and Courts Act, which passed in February.
Other examples include a homeless man charged £900 for shoplifting,
multiple cases of people charged £150 for begging, and one man hit with
£300 worth of costs for stealing three bottles of baby milk (see below).
The criminal courts charge is a fee adult offenders have to pay towards
the cost of administering a criminal court case if they are convicted
of, or plead guilty for, a crime. A blanket fee that cannot be changed
according to the severity of the offence, the criminal courts charge is
not means-tested, and cannot be waived.
It’s not up to the judge or magistrates’ discretion whether or not to
apply the charge, and the court cannot take the charge into account when
it decides on a sentence.
The minimum £150 charge comes on top of fines, prosecution costs,
victim surcharges, and compensation costs that already hit those who are
convicted. The woman who stole a Mars bar had to pay an £150 criminal
Here is a rundown of the charges, from the Sentencing Council website:
The charge came into effect for offences committed on or after 13
April, and, due to the five or six months’ lag time for cases going
through the Crown Prosecution Service to the courts, the cycle of these
trials has recently begun, with magistrates only just beginning to
realise what the charge means for justice – particularly in relation to
vulnerable people who end up in court.
Thirty magistrates across the country have already resigned in protest against the charge. An insider at the Magistrates Assoc" Go to: http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/welfare/2015/08/it-feels-absolutely-rotten-new-legal-fee-forces-courts-punish-poor-and