Huge amount of criminal court charges have gone uncollected

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THOUSANDS of pounds in a controversial court charge has gone uncollected in what has been called a ‘pointless exercise’.

More than £732,000 of criminal courts charges were imposed by judges and magistrates between April and September last year in Hampshire but just £88,000 has been collected.

And it comes as it has been revealed that nationally, of £68m imposed between April and December, just £8m was collected.

Tim Sparkes, a criminal defence solicitor in Portsmouth, said: ‘It’s an example of what a pointless exercise it all was.

‘I get a lot of people coming into the court with hundreds or thousands to pay and a significant part of that is criminal courts charge.’

He added: ‘It doesn’t surprise me in the least that very little has been collected as the court charge was being imposed repeatedly on people who couldn’t afford it.’

The charge was brought in by former justice secretary Chris Grayling but was ‘paused’ by his successor Michael Gove.

It was originally designed to bring in cash to help fund courts, but was widely criticised. Courts had to impose the fee as part of sentencing.

The Ministry of Justice said the amount collected of the charge, which ranged from £150 to £1,200, is what they expected.

It added compensation and fines were collected first, and the courts charge could be paid in instalments.

But according to figures obtained by The News, £2.2m in compensation was left outstanding in 2014/15, and £9.6m in fines were uncollected.

Simon Hayes, Hampshire’s police and crime commissioner, said: ‘I know that victims are frustrated by the fact that once an award has been made to them they’re getting it 50p a week or £5 a month and it’s going to take years for compensation to be paid.

‘The reality is, if offenders haven’t got financial assets or aren’t working, then they can’t get the money from them.

‘I think that it’s something that needs to be continued to be pursued.’

The amount of victim compensation collected in 2014/15 increased from the two previous years.

Last year The News revealed Adam Little had been waiting for four years for £250 compensation awarded to him after being a victim of criminal damage.

He has still received nothing.

The 32-year-old, of North End, said: ‘There’s no money coming my way. I’ve had no responses, I’ve had nothing.’

Compensation is ordered by magistrates and judges as part of a sentence.

Liessa Mallinson, deputy contract manager at Victim Support in Hampshire, said: ‘Not getting anything or getting it in dribs and drabs is frustrating and victims feel justice is not on their side.’

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: ‘We have listened to the concerns and the courts charge has not been imposed since December 24.’