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Offenders at crown and magistrates courts face new court charges despite more than £18million already being owed to Kent courts

Offenders now have to pay up to £1,200 more in court costs after new regulations were brought in this week.

From today individuals found guilty have been landed with further charges of between £150 and £1,200 towards the running of courts.

The Criminal Courts Charge complements existing payments which can be imposed – including victim surcharges, fines and compensation – and is the only type of financial punishment that goes towards HM Courts and Tribunal Service’s administration of costs.

The minimum wage is going up. Picture: Thinkstock
The minimum wage is going up. Picture: Thinkstock

Victim surcharges act similarly to the new cost, in that they are applied to the vast majority of sentences, and have generated £51million since they were implemented in 2010, with all proceeds distributed to charities which help the victims of crime.

Under the new initiative those who plead guilty will be charged £150, £210 or £900 depending on the severity of the offence, while criminals convicted at a trial will be slapped with a bill of either £720, £1,000 or £1,200 depending on their crime and the type of court they appear in.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling described the new initiative as providing a tougher package of sentencing measures to restore face in the justice system.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling
Transport secretary Chris Grayling

However, there are concerns that many people will not be able to pay the extra amount.

In January the Kent Messenger reported that £18,527,317 is currently owed following court judgements in Kent, an amount which is increasing every year.

Those who fail to pay often face further court action and may be faced with the bailiffs.

Rose Lovell of Maidstone Citizens Advice Bureau
Rose Lovell of Maidstone Citizens Advice Bureau

Rose Lovell, money advice specialist for the Maidstone Citizens Advice Bureau, said: “Obviously these new costs will cause further financial difficulty. Our figures from the last financial year show debt in Maidstone is up by £1.5million on the previous 12 months.

"We dealt with more than £9.5million of overdue payments between last April and the end of March, with priority payments such as court fines making up more than £3million.”

She added: “While people should do more to make sure they are contacting the courts if their circumstances change very little information has been provided on these new charges.”

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