LEGAL EAGLE: Should I plead guilty because I can’t afford court costs?

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I am due to appear at Newcastle Crown Court in two weeks for an offence that I did not commit. I had planned on pleading not guilty, however I have been told that if I am found guilty I will have over £1,000 in costs to pay. Is this true?

There are a number of different financial penalties that can be imposed by the courts. There is a new Criminal Courts Charge which applies to adults who either plead guilty to or are convicted of an offence that took place after April 13, 2015.

 On conclusion of a case the court will consider fines, compensation, prosecution costs and a victim surcharge.

 The new Criminal Courts Charge is a further payment on top of the above charges which is imposed whether or not the court orders any of the other charges to also be paid.

 The court has no choice but to order the charge and the amount payable is set by the Government and the court has to stick to the fixed amounts.

 The amount of the court charge depends on the type of offence, which court is hearing the case and whether someone pleads guilty or is convicted after trial.

 Given that your case is to be heard by the Crown Court, if you were convicted after a trial the charge would be £1,200.

 If you pleaded guilty the charge would be less although the exact amount depends on the offence and could be up to £900.

 If you do have to pay the charge, the court will set an appropriate repayment rate depending on your income.  

 You would normally be able to pay by instalments and you will only start to pay this charge once all other financial impositions have been paid.

 If reasonable steps are taken to comply with the payment terms and there were no further offences within a specific period, the court can remit all or part of the outstanding debt, so you would no longer be liable to repay the charge.

 The court are clear, however, that enforcement action will be taken if payments stop and interest is also payable on any outstanding amounts.

 When financial penalties imposed by the court are not paid there is a possibility of the court imposing custody.

 It is vital that you seek legal advice from a solicitor to ensure you receive appropriate advice before your court hearing in relation to your plea and the court procedure.