Magistrates’ court fees “will usher in plea bargaining”
Charging defendants of little means court fees – even if they put their hands up and plead guilty – will bring US-style plea bargaining to English justice, a legal affairs think tank has said.
In written evidence to parliament’s justice select committee, seen by The Brief, the London-based Centre for Justice Innovation sharply criticised the government’s recently instituted and highly controversial magistrates’ court charges.
Charges on conviction following a trial run to £520, while even defendants pleading guilty are stung with a fee of £150.
The centre said in its evidence: “We are troubled that, as recent cases suggest, the criminal court charge is making defendants change their pleas in order to avoid running the risk of incurring excessive penalties. This has the hallmarks of a plea-bargaining system.”