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Claim that court charges are undermining the justice system

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A growing number of defendants feel under pressure to plead guilty to crimes they did not commit, following the introduction of controversial criminal courts charges.

A new system was introduced earlier this year, with offenders being made to pay towards the upkeep of the nation’s courts.

But the “exorbitant” charge can be up to ten times higher if an individual is convicted after initially pleading innocence.

The threat of being saddled with crippling costs is persuading many of those accused to admit to things they have not done, which critics claim is undermining the criminal justice system.

Richard Monkhouse, chairman of the Magistrates’ Association, said a number of JPs had already stepped down in protest against the changes.

“The chief concern of our members is the observation that pleas are being influenced by the charge. Defendants may be pleading guilty in order to avoid a larger financial penalty.

“We hope that the Lord Chancellor will grant the urgent review we’re calling for and grant magistrates discretion in applying the charge.”

The Howard League for Penal Reform said the new regime was like something from the 18th century and threatening charges of up to £1,000 was having a disproportion effect on the poorest in society.

The criminal courts charges have been contentious ever since they were unveiled by the previous Justice Secretary Chris Grayling.

They are neither means-tested nor adjusted according to the seriousness of the crime.

In one particularly notorious case in Portsmouth, a man who had recently been declared bankrupt stole a £1 packet of chocolate buttons and was slapped with the standard £150 charge on top of a fine and costs.

Facing criminal charges of any description can be an extremely daunting prospect, particularly if you have never been in trouble with the law before. For expert legal advice contact the criminal law team at Lester Morrill today.

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