Convicted criminals in Northamptonshire may have to pay up to £1,200 towards the cost of their court cases from next month, it has been revealed.
The Ministry of Justice has introduced new fees, which come into force on April 13, in a bid to recover more money back from criminals to reduce the burden on taxpayers.
The new fees, which will be separate to other fines such as the victim surcharge, will range from £150 for a guilty plea in magistrates’ court to £1,200 if convicted after a trial at crown court.
Justice secretary Chris Grayling said he wanted to make sure offenders are punished properly and consistently, so that the “law-abiding majority” know the Ministry of Justice was working to reduce the cost to taxpayers of running the courts.
He said: “From my first day in this job I have been clear that people must have confidence in our justice system.
“We’re on the side of people who work hard and want to get on, and that is why these reforms will make sure that those who commit crime pay their way and contribute towards the cost of their court cases.”
People may plead guilty because they cannot afford to protest their innocence.Claire Fitzpatrick, a solicitor for Northampton-based Stephen Moore & Co,
The new charges will not be means-tested and, as is the case currently, money can be taken out of the benefit payments of criminals with no private income.
If criminals are still paying back their criminal costs two years after they have appeared in court, they will be able to apply for the outstanding debt to be written off.
However, concerns have been expressed that the new costs may result in some people pleading guilty as they cannot afford the costs of being found guilty after trial.
Claire Fitzpatrick, a solicitor for Northampton-based Stephen Moore & Co, said: “People may plead guilty because they cannot afford to protest their innocence.”
The Magistrates’ Association has also warned the new charges could place a burden on people with little income.
Chairman Richard Monkhouse said many offenders would not have the means to pay off the charges.