Saturday, March 21, 2015

That Ridiculous Surcharge Again.

(from Bystander N)

I have just been reading the full sentencing remarks of HHJ Pontius in the matter of R v Brusthom Ziamani, who had planned to cut off the head of a British soldier.  As is usual from a judge they give a clear and precise explanation for the sentencing decision he came to.   

He said “Formally expressed, therefore, I pass an extended sentence of twenty seven years, the custodial term of which is twenty two years, with a licence extension of five years” and his final sentence reads “If a Victim Surcharge is appropriate in this case the relevant order will be drawn up and served on the defendant in due course.”  I noticed a card on the bench in my local crown court where I sat this week with just this wording.

In the magistrates’ courts we have to work out the surcharge and announce to the defendant what the amount is and then we deal with payment, or at least we set the terms, and then wonder if they will ever be met, even if the defendant has agreed them.

The crown court does not always seem to deal with this in detail but can someone tell me the point, in a case like this, of applying a charge of £120?  Does anyone seriously think it will ever be paid or will it just be added to the vast number of fines, costs, compensations and surcharges that don’t happen as the court instructed?


  1. Hey Bystander, surely you know the law is a ass by now ! Rest of sentence about right BTW

  2. In this instance, I agree with your final conclusion that there is no point in levying the surcharge in cases such as this.

    Not only is it insulting to the actual victims of such crimes as that contemplated by Mr Ziamani, but there is a very real chance that the imposition of this surcharge will actually end up costing our impoverished state more in collection costs than it will ever possibly raise.

    It is a nonsense to levy a "surcharge" of this nature on imposition of a custodial sentence. I take no issue at all with the notion that anyone identified as having either existing assets or the means to met the amounts incurred should pay the real costs of bringing a case to court (provided that individual is found guilty of the allegations against her/him).

    But I agree with Bystander that the public pronouncement of a "victim surcharge" when a life sentence, or even a long custodial sentence, is imposed is likely to bring the CJS into disrepute, and frankly just makes the courts look silly.

    But I can't agree that the victim surcharge in and of itself is a bad thing, and even less that it should not be levied by the Magistrates' Courts or even by the Crown Court when imposing community sentences on offenders with the means to pay such a levy to help support organisations such as the Witness Service, Victim Support, and women's refuges around the country. For my part, I would prefer that the Government accept that such services should form part of the automatic provision of state support for victims of crime, and that any monies raised by the levying of a "victim surcharge" should go towards the constitution of a genuine victim compensation fund, which really would enable the victims of crime to receive adequate recompense for the horrors they have endured.

    To that extent, and for my part, I have few problems with courts adding a statutory surcharge in appropriate circumstances, which will usually be the case in the magistrates' courts (but not always - the last thing a drug addict being made subject to a drug rehab requirement needs is to know that at the end of their community order they will be chased by private sector money merchants who subsidise the Tory Party in return for providing them with such a lucrative income stream, where they can raise on average 7.8 times the amount initially charged by the state out of state benefits paid by that same state to offenders as they struggle to re-engage with society and find gainful employment).

    By all means levy this charge on road traffic offenders, and the usual irresponsible twerps who end up before the magistrates' courts, along with the occasional hardened criminal (most are sad, mad but very rarely bad).

    But please don't make the courts look silly by requiring them to impose a victim surcharge when sending someone into custody. Use POCA (the Proceeds Of Crime Act) to seize the assets of those who have used crime to fund their lifestyles, and make those who have flouted the law to extort money from tenants of substandard multi-occupancy accommodation, for example pay what it has cost the state / local authorities to bring their cases to court.

    So I agree with Bystander (up to a point), but not to the extent of dismissing entirely the whole concept of the Victim Surcharge. It still serves some useful purpose, however hard politicians have tried to bring it into ridicule and contempt...

  3. Don't get me on about costs!!!
    They are a fiction at the best of times and move from ridiculous to unbelievable. We think we have a top notch legal system but we don't, we just have one that is a bit better than some.
    In reality most cases should not cost much to process if a lot of the bullshit and bureacracy was stripped away.

    The surchage is a joke full stop. Rather than complicating the process if some money was to be directed to victims of crime wouldn't it have been easier just to lob 10% of all fines collected? Easy no maths and very little room for a mistake. Moreover situations as described above would just not happen

  4. I wonder how HH will deal with the Criminal Courts Charge after April 13th ?

  5. Maybe the prison governor can deduct it from what the prisoner will earn sewing mailbags.


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