Friday, July 05, 2013

It's Nice To Be Noticed

A piece in the Law Society Gazette by the estimable Joshua Rozenberg gives us a mention on the topic of the 'victim' Surcharge that I recently wrote about. I last met Mr. Rozenberg about three years ago, when he interviewed me on Radio 4, and a few years before that I met him when I visited the Daily Telegraph office, then in Canary Wharf. He is one of those commentators who knows his stuff.

13 comments:

  1. Rozenberg writes "As the well-known author of the Magistrates’ Blog wrote recently". Well-known to who?

    I've been following your blog for years and still have no idea who you are, but others obviously do...

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    1. Yes quite a few do know. I have done pieces for the BBC and a number of newspapers, so they know. I was at a meeting a year ago when a judge sat next to me and said "You're the one who writes the blog, aren't you?" At least a couple of High Court judges know too, as do the MA and NBCF leaderships.

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  2. The article highlights a very serious potential outcome:

    'A tearaway teenager steals money from his mother’s purse. The mother bravely shops him to the police. The lad pleads guilty and is given a community sentence or locked up. His mother never gets her money back. And then she is ordered to pay up to £20, supposedly to help people like her.'

    The mother (the victim) then become reluctant to report any future thefts, whereby the lad (the criminal) steals even more money from her knowing she will have to pay more if she reports these thefts. Catch 22.

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    1. Except that scenario should never arise if the court simply used the powers available to them.

      https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/172423/victim-surcharge-circular.pdf.pdf

      "The court has the discretion not to order the parent or guardian to pay the Surcharge on the child’s behalf if having had regard to the circumstances of the case, it considers that it would be unreasonable to make such an order (see section 137(1A)(b) of the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000). The court might conclude that where a parent has been the victim of the child’s offending that it would be unreasonable to require the parent to pay the Victim Surcharge on the child’s behalf. Whilst the Surcharge would still need to be ordered, the court could use its discretion in such a case to defer its payment until such as a time as it considers the child would be likely to be able to pay the Surcharge themselves, for example, after turning 18.

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  3. Quoted from the article: 'The figure for unpaid fines and compensation orders already running at around £600m.'

    This whole exercise is to help lessen (on paper) the losses made by the MOJ system as it appears on the balance sheet as an asset, even though it will probably never be converted into cash in the bank.

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  4. I understand that in the legislation it is only referred to as a 'surcharge' and the word 'victim' does not appear. We should drop the word victim.

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    1. Quite. I do not use the bogus 'V' word.

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  5. Its like he said, they don't know when to leave well enough alone.
    John Gibson

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  6. I am intrigued by the MOJ's statement that the money is ring-fenced for specific purposes, when the computer system (as I understand it) still does not allow for its identification as a separate entry, but simply lumps it in with the fines.

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  7. It is barmy plain and simple.
    in stead of playing to the gallery, those who make the laws on our behalf should strive to simplify and codify the system. Unfairness just brings the whole system into disrepute. You would have thought that it would have been perfectly possible to just take a slice off the fines and divert it to helping victims, but that would be too easy. Instead we have a procedure that is neither fair or proportionate and I imagin costs a fortune to recover.

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  8. It would cost a fortune to recover if anyone actually bothered to do so. I wonder if they do.
    When we impose a fine we make a collection and say that it means the bailiffs can come round and take away property. How often does that happen I wonder and, when it does, how often do they find there is property, agreed by the defaulter to belong to them, and of any real value?

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    1. Too true, by far and away most of these people we see are on skidrow anyhow. What they do have is most probably on HP @ £5 a week for ever to by their 55" 3-D TV.
      Fines really only work for the middle classes, who will pay, but since the courts are not choaked up with many of them, apart from RTA matters, fines do not really work. The same £5 a week for ever to pay off a fine just becomes an inconvenience not a punishment and to some extent pointless. If a true audit was done I'm sure the state is well out of pocket

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  9. There is an earlier post above suggesting that £600 million is owed in unpaid fines and compensation. Is that all? The last figure I heard, not that long ago, was in excess of a billion pounds.

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