England: Gove scraps criminal courts charge

The Justice Secretary Michael Gove has abolished the mandatory criminal courts charge after over 100 magistrates resigned in protest to the highly controversial measure.

Chris Grayling, Mr Gove’s predecessor, introduced the charge in April. It has faced fierce opposition from across the legal community, including senior judges.

Mr Gove made the announcement in an address to the annual meeting of the Magistrates Association in London.

Last month, Westminster’s Justice Select Committee called for the abolition of the charge “as soon as possible” in a damning assessment of the costs.

The mandatory payment of up to £1,200 imposed on all convicted persons creates “perverse incentives” for defendants to plead guilty the committee said.

Malcolm Richardson

Malcolm Richardson, MA national chairman, said: “This is fantastic news and we’re very grateful to Mr Gove for listening to the case made by magistrates about the charge. In all my years on the bench, I’ve never seen something strike so hard at the heart of justice.

“Although we have lost many experienced magistrates, there will be an enormous sense of relief across the criminal justice system. We’re grateful that Mr Gove made this announcement to the MA, as it stands in testimony to his collaborative approach and his appreciation of the work of magistrates.”

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