Monday, July 09, 2012

From Him That Hath..........

I am grateful to the folk at Peyto Law in Fleet (no, me neither) for helpfully listing the forthcoming changes to the 'victim' surcharge on their website. They are specialist planning and local government solicitors, so they practice in a less grubby area of the trade than the criminal courts.

I have never been a fan of the so-called Victim Surcharge, because it is arbitrary and unfair as well as sneaky, because the money raised does not go to victims, but rather to bodies that deal with them. My  'uh-oh' reflex was triggered when I read that a big chunk of the 'victims' cash goes to the CPS, thus saving the Government a nifty few quid. Now the MoJ is extending the charge to more serious offences, and I cannot do better than to quote from Messrs. Peyto's website:-

The Criminal Justice Act 2003 (Surcharge) Order 2012 (SI No. 2012/1696) comes into force on 1 October 2012 to change the amount of victim surcharge paid by a Defendant upon conviction.
From 1 October 2012 the following provisions will apply:
Offenders aged 18 or over
  • conditional discharge - £15
  • fine - 10% of the fine value, with a minimum amount of £20 and a maximum amount of £120
  • a community sentence - £60
  • a suspended sentence of imprisonment or detention in a young offenders' institution of 6 months and below - £80
  • a suspended sentence of imprisonment or detention in a young offenders' institution of between 6 months and 12 months - £100
  • an immediate sentence of imprisonment or detention in a young offenders' institution (initially imposed only by a Crown Court) of 6 months and below - £80
  • an immediate sentence of imprisonment or detention in a young offenders' institution (initially imposed only by a Crown Court) of between 6 months and 2 years - £100
  • an immediate sentence of imprisonment or detention in a young offenders' institution of over 2 years - £120
  • a sentence of imprisonment or detention in a young offenders' institution for public protection - £120
  • a sentence of imprisonment or custody for life - £120
Offenders aged under 18 years
  • conditional discharge - £10
  • a fine, Youth Rehabilitation Order or Referral Order - £15
  • a custodial sentence of any length (initially imposed only by a Crown Court) - £20
Companies
  • conditional discharge - £15
  • fine - 10% of the fine value, with a minimum amount of £20 and a maximum amount of £120
In cases of a mixed disposal (where the defendant is dealt with in different ways e.g. a fine for one offence and custody for another) only one surcharge will be paid and the amount will be the higher of the possible options.

This is full of unfairness anomalies and absurdities. Companies cannot be ordered to pay more than a measly £120, despite the fact that magistrates' powers in cases such as environmental or health and safety matters run to a fine of £20,000, when the 10% surcharge would otherwise be £2,000. Why?

Those committed to prison face a Surcharge of up to £120 (but only in the Crown Court - why?) so next time that an awesome High Court judge, resplendent in his red robes, sentences a Huntley or a Brady or a Jihadist to life with a recommendation that he never be released, His Lordship will have to add "and by the way, there will be £120 surcharge  - are you asking for time to pay? No hurry, you have until around 2040 to knock it off."

Most defendants in the lower court have little or no money, and live on benefits, so collecting these impositions will not be easy, and may cost more than they yield.

Who thinks these things up?



24 comments:

  1. Companies make the law (or have it made for them), so of course it is rigged in favor of them.

    "If the Pennsylvania Railroad has no further business, the Legislature of the State of Delaware stands adjourned."

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    1. The company's own centennial history boasts of the state senator who asked, after two bills of huge interest to the railroad has been adopted by the legislature following the intervention of the company's then President (a certain Mr Thomas Scott, to whom the above apparently legendary comment is attributed) whether they could now "go Scott free". On the other hand, legislators argued that it was necessary to increase their numbers and remuneration to make it too costly for any company to buy their favours!

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  2. (Formerly Penguin) - I wish I was able to make some useful contribution, but I can't. I could bloody well weep. At what point do we all resign together?

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  3. (Formally Jobsworth)I suppose we will all have 'training' on this nonsense at some point!

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  4. There are in fact a number of summary environmental offences where magistrates have exceptional powers to fine up to £50,000, and in one case (the discharge of oil into UK waters) up to £250,000.

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  5. If you are doing a few decades inside inflation will nicely reduce the value of your surcharge.

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  6. "Who thinks these things up?"

    I understand this regime was devised by the Blood from Stone Extraction Working Group with assistance from the Brutish Bankers Association

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  7. This is a dumb change, and complicated to implement.

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  8. I despair - anyone know what our wonderful MA has done about this...what's that you say....nothing?? Ah well, Business As Usual then

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    1. If Ken didn't even bother to tell parliament, why on earth would he warn the MA?

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    2. And all they would do is agree (ie local justices panels, JPs not in police stations but in community centres! JP's sitting alone etc etc)

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    3. The MA did support these changes, which are in reply to a consultation on Support for Victims.

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    4. Not quite the full story. The MA response didn't oppose extending the range of penalties to which the VS was applied in principle (though I don't believe it was suggested at that time that it be applied to custodial sentences), but what it did push for was the creation of a real compensation fund into which such monies as are collected would be paid, thereby enabling courts to order that victims be paid immediately out of this fund in appropriate circumstances, and putting an end to the "drip, drip" reminder week by week of a few pounds to bring all the dreadful memories flooding back. That was a goal worth pursuing, and I hope the MA will stick to its guns on that.

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  9. I presume offenders who pass through the prison gates still have the right to lodge all outstanding financial penalties, and I presume the principle on which this facility is based, namely that everyone should leave prison with a clean slate - even if they immediately dirty it again, is still accepted?

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  10. Farce pure facrce but what can you expect from the way parliament operates.
    The passing of ever more complex laws that no one understands is one of the reasons no-one wants to obey them!
    The LCJ was bemoaning the complexity and frequency of criminal law changes recently on TV- he is right.
    This surcharge is an administrative farce of the first order, apart from being unfair and having nothing to do with victims( apparently they can't work out how much they rake in) it does nothing to simplify justice.

    Why not just direct a portion of fines to the need of victims - dead straight forward, you know where you are and no cost.

    Bit like the stupid collection order: who ever dreamed that one up desrves the wooden spoon- isn't implicit that if a finacial penalty is imposed the court can enforce it. rather than making an individual order should it not have just been part of the process??

    Rather than casualising justice simplification would save much more money than closing courts, running them through the night and generally treating justice like a trip to the shops.

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  11. Would love to know how the poor developers of the Sentencing Guideline App which so many of us now use (very handy calculator function!!) are going to work this one out...

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  12. The last time I asked how much victim surcharge my court had collected, admittedly quite some time ago now, I was told the figure wasn't known because the computer system couldn't handle it as a specific, so it was just lumped in with the rest of the money collected, or more likely not collected. Anyone know how we can get these figures?

    As for an earlier comment about the MA, I didn't bother to renew my membership earlier this year. I got fed up with wasting money on them.

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    1. If it works like it did in my day then really it's irrelevant. Where we knew we were going to be imposing wholly financial penalties, taking into account that we were not allowed to stretch the offender's budget by fining more than he could afford, you had to start with the means form, work out a global imposable sum and then portion it out among the various headings. If VS goes up, something else comes down, but the total remains the same. Oh, and give reasons of course.

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  13. You know, I know, in fact everybody knows that these additional imposts will only affect the motorist, that wonderful cash cow of Government. Only the motorist has the money to pay.

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  14. My fine (political offence) is still outstanding from 2005. Bring it on, custodial sentence (£1000 a week, plus concomitant publicity) and we get to know the magistrates name and address.

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  15. And why would you want to have the magistrates' names and addresses?

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    1. I very much doubt the Lord would need a magistrate's address to "take revenge"!

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  16. While I think that the whole VS system is dishonest, on this particular matter, I thought that a "Conditional Discharge" did not rate as a "conviction"?

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