Thursday, April 19, 2007

My First Time

Today I imposed my first two Victim Surcharges. The first was on a derelict-looking forty-something man with borderline mental health difficulties, and he was before us having stolen a few pounds' worth of sweets from WH Smith's in the High Street. He had got away from the scene of the crime, but the police had searched him a couple of hours later as he drifted around the bus station, and found the stuff. He did not qualify for legal aid, and so he came up from the cells flanked by two custody officers to plead his own case. "What do you want to tell us?" I enquired. "Nothing, sir, I think I was just hungry. I had no money, you see". I had a whispered confab with my colleagues and I turned back to him. "Mr. McCarthy. You will pay a fine of £50, which we have reduced from £75 to reflect your plea of guilty. We are obliged to impose a victim surcharge of £15. We make no order as to costs because you are of no fixed abode and you only occasionally receive benefits. Because you have been in custody since yesterday afternoon (NFA means no bail) we deem the fine and surcharge to have been served. The officers will take you back downstairs and you will be released". And so it happened.
The second was a bleary red-faced alcoholic. We dealt with him in exactly the same way.
Technically, the surcharge was imposed in both cases, and the stats will show it as paid, because it was served. What a lot of nonsense, and what a waste of everyone's time.

I must hastily add, having read a few comments, that this wasn't a 'clever' way of getting round the surcharge - these are the disposals we would have used anyway, surcharge or no surcharge. When we are faced with people who have committed low-scale offences and who have, for whatever reason, spent time in custody it is standard practice to impose a fine and deem it served. Justice is done, in a rough old way, and it keeps the books straight.

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