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The Prosecution of Offences Act 1985 (Criminal Courts Charge) Regulations 2015

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EXPLANATORY NOTE

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Section 21A(1) of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985 (c. 23) (“the POA 1985”) requires a court, at the times listed in section 21B of the POA 1985, to order a person convicted of an offence to pay a charge in respect of relevant court costs (the “criminal courts charge”). This duty does not apply in the cases or classes of case prescribed by the Lord Chancellor (section 21A(3)).

Regulation 2 prescribes the classes of case in which the criminal courts charge must not be ordered: where an offender is dealt with for the offence by being absolutely discharged, or where the offender is given a hospital or guardianship order for the offence, or a direction for hospital admission, under the Mental Health Act 1983 (c. 20); and those cases where the Criminal Cases Review Commission has referred the case for appeal. Regulation 2(2) and (3) provide that where a court deals with an offender in the same proceedings for both an offence and for any failure to comply with requirements imposed by a community order, a community requirement of a suspended sentence order or a supervision requirement, the court must not impose a criminal courts charge when dealing with the offender for the breach of a requirement. Regulation 2(4) deals with the unusual situation where a court is dealing with an offender in the same proceedings for multiple breaches of orders mentioned in section 21B of the 1985 Act. Where for example the court deals both with a breach of requirements imposed by a community order and a breach of the community requirements of a suspended sentence order, regulation 2(5) means that a charge must not be imposed in relation to the failure to comply with the community requirements of the suspended sentence order.

Regulation 3 and the associated table in the Schedule specify the amounts payable in respect of different classes of case. Regulation 3(4) and (5) for example, deal with the situation where a court is dealing with an offender for more than one offence in the same proceedings where more than one entry in column 1 of the table is potentially relevant. This may occur where a magistrates’ court at a trial is dealing with an offender for conviction of both a summary offence and an offence triable either way. Article 3(5) explains that the court must order the highest relevant amount corresponding to the class of case with which it is concerned.

Section 21E of the POA 1985 gives a magistrates’ court power to remit the criminal courts charge in certain circumstances. The magistrates’ court may not do so until “a specified period” has elapsed from certain events, such as the day on which a person was last convicted of an offence. Article 4 specifies the relevant periods and makes different provision depending on whether an application for remission is made by the offender (where the specified period is two years) or any other case – a magistrates’ court acting of its own motion or an application by a fines officer – (where the period is 12 months).

A full impact assessment of the effect of the policy implemented by this instrument on the costs of business and the voluntary sector is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/attachment_data/file/336092/addendum-criminal-courts-charge-ia.pdf.

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