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Withdraw the Victim Surcharge

16 Comments 26th November 2012

At present all offenders receiving a Fine in Court, irrespective of the nature of their offence or any specific award for compensation to their victim(s), are by law ordered to pay an additional £15 surcharge to the Victim Support fund.  Judges and Magistrates have no discretion in the matter. This Victim Surcharge as it is presently enacted, undermines the principles of Justice and should be withdrawn on the basis that it is unfair, inefficient, ineffective and illogical.

Why does this matter?

This Victim Surcharge as it is presently enacted, undermines the principles of Justice and should withdrawn on the basis that it is unfair, inefficient, ineffective and illogical.

1.  Unfair.

a.     The Fine guidance structure for sentencers is set and maintained by the Sentencing Guidelines Council (SGC) and takes account of the offender’s ability to pay.  The Victim Surcharge is a flat rate that does not take account of the ability to pay and consequently penalises those on lower incomes.

b.     Offences of violence (domestic or otherwise) are normally ‘serious enough’ or ‘so serious’ to attract a sentence of either a community order or custody thus avoiding the Fine criteria which triggers the ordering of the Victim’s Surcharge.

c.     Many ‘Non-violent’ offences e.g. Vehicle and speeding offences attract no more than a Fine plus usually, some form of ancillary order.  The ‘Fine’ consequently automatically triggers the offender’s liability to pay the Victims Surcharge.

d.     ‘b’ and ‘c’ above are unfair on their own terms but put together they beg the question as to why ‘non-violent’ offenders should appear to subsidise ‘violent’ ones.

e.     If it is decided, e.g. by the Police, to dispose of an offence by the imposition of a Fixed Penalty (NB not defined as a Fine), then this Fixed Penalty does not presently attract the additional Victim Surcharge.  This is itself unfair but if the offender wishes to contest the Fixed Penalty on the grounds of his inability to pay and takes it to Court which finds in his favour, then any reduction is offset by the increase to accommodate the mandatory Victim Surcharge.
[NB before the last General Election there was discussion of extending the Victim Surcharge to Fixed Penalties]

2.  Inefficient

a.     The pronouncement and explanation of the Victim Surcharge to offenders and the recording and accounting of it, adds significant time to general court proceedings and administration.

b.     It is believed that the monies ultimately collected do not meet the effort by Public Services to recover, ring-fence, manage and distribute the monies ordered under the Victim Surcharge.

3.  Ineffective

a.     There is no evidence that the imposition of the Victim’s Surcharge has had any effect (i.e. additional to that of the Fine) on the rehabilitation, reconciliation or future behaviour of the offender.  Indeed in some quarters (e.g. motorists) it is resented and seen merely as another ‘stealth’ Tax.

b.     There is no evidence that the imposition of the Victim’s Surcharge has any measurable effect on the improvement of circumstances of the ‘Victims’ of crime, detected or otherwise.

4.  Illogical

Many of the grounds stated above are illogical in themselves primarily because the Victim Surcharge concept is not properly integrated with the principles of Sentencing.  However the most damning aspect is that in total the Victim Surcharge concept has the significant and potentially dangerous consequence of bringing the Law, the Courts and Sentencing generally into disrepute.

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16 Responses to Withdraw the Victim Surcharge

  1. Dawn Carter says:

    i was assulated n he was found guilty, he was fined £300 , £80 court cost’s n £15 victims charge. i’m i due 2 get ant off this as i have not been told yet!

    I do think this is a good idea!!

  2. alan grimshaw says:

    absolute b******s, i had a motoring conviction and have to pay into this pot? why? im not a violent person so why should i pay into a pot for a crime that has nothing to do with the crime i commited?

    • Ted Charlton says:

      We do have an Injustice System … my Motorhome is used by my Family … the vehicle exceeded the speed limit travelling 35 mph going down a hill (mobile automatic camera device) The driver was unable to be identified and I filled in the paperwork saying so. I was advised by the Police I could not take the fixed Penalty Charge. I had to go to Magistrates Court as I was the Registered Keeper. I was offered the opportunity to plead Guilty by letter to save time and expenses. I later received the result of a Fine of £40.00 with £85.00 costs and 4 penalty points and a Victim Surcharge of £30.00 (total £155.00). I should have lied and paid the Fixed Penalty, saving myself money. No costs and no Victim Surcharge which supposedly does not apply to Fixed Penalties.

  3. wifred allen says:

    I think its just another way of conning money out of motorist and its just typical of the corrupt polititians of this country to bring this law in and that the laws that they make should be put to a public vote first

    • Ted Charlton says:

      We do have an Injustice System … my Motorhome is used by my Family … the vehicle exceeded the speed limit travelling 35 mph going down a hill (mobile automatic camera device) The driver was unable to be identified and I filled in the paperwork saying so. I was advised by the Police I could not take the fixed Penalty Charge. I had to go to Magistrates Court as I was the Registered Keeper. I was offered the opportunity to plead Guilty by letter to save time and expenses. I later received the result of a Fine of £40.00 with £85.00 costs and 4 penalty points and a Victim Surcharge of £30.00 (total £155.00). I should have lied and paid the Fixed Penalty, saving myself money. No costs and no Victim Surcharge which supposedly does not apply to Fixed Penalties.

  4. stoptherot says:

    “Irrespective of the nature of their offense”?

    Worrying!

  5. Abe says:

    The surcharge is now £30. Even if there is no victim.

    They should rename it to something more appropriate… How about the “house of commons xmas party victim surcharge”?

  6. Stuart says:

    I just wanted to add that this is a bad idea and, as usual, it is being abused in our ‘justice’ system.

    I was victimised in court back in May of this year because i refused to fill out the UK Census because of it’s excessive intrusiveness and also because of the involvement of Lockheed Martin.

    I was fined £395, of which there is a £15 surcharge.
    At present, as i am almost done with this fine, i have decided to withhold the victim surcharge.

    This is being abused by the courts to such a degree that they can not even differentiate what is a “crime” against a human being and/or a crime against a company or an organisation.
    According to the CPS website the definition of a Victim is quoted as follows.

    ‘A victim is defined as “a person who has complained of the commission of an offence against themselves or their property”. The term includes bereaved relatives or partners (including same sex partners) in homicide and fatal road traffic cases, as well as parents or carers where the victim is a child or a vulnerable adult. It also includes small businesses. Large retailers or corporations do not come within the definition of victim. Road traffic offences where death or serious injury has occurred are also included in the scheme.’

    This enactment would have more credibility if it wasn’t being abused but as usual, it is.
    This is why it is a bad idea.

  7. Mollowen says:

    This surcharge is just about justifiable in crimes for which there is an identifiable specific victim or victims.

    HOWEVER: The son of a friend recently reported an accident where he feared a driver (drunk) who had just damaged the lad’s newly-purchased van, might be injured (having next driven through a fence and into a field. When the police turned up they booked the boy who had reported the incident because his insurance hadn’t been finalised and he was parked on a public road.

    He will of course get points and a fine for this – automatic – and will then be charged £15 Victim Surcharge….

    The victim in this case, and the responsible citizen, being…..

  8. attiq says:

    This is a money making scam.
    How can it be a victim sercharge if the police book you for no insurance.
    H

  9. Simon Berjawi says:

    I went to jail for growing weed. Costing me my job and my flat. It was not a large amount of weed as it was medicinal. I use it to manage my back pain as I have a compression fracture in my lower back. While in cardiff prison my prescription pain medication was withheld causing me to have a back spasm on b wing 3rd floor staircase sending me headfirst down a metal staircase . I honestly believed I was about to break my neck. Still my medication was withheld and when I put a complaint in about the whole situation I was assaulted by the guards and shipped off to Swansea. Where the doctor immediately restarted me on the CORRECT medication. The rest of my sentence was uneventful and I am now a free man. With no job no home or money but I have a victim surcharge to pay of £100. Where is this victim? Who is s/he? Can I sue cardiff prison? Oh and if they think I’m giving up £100 they can think again

  10. Sheena says:

    I’ve no idea what the OP had been reading when they posted this – people sent to prison also pay the victim surcharge and that had been in force for at least a month before this article was created.

    That surcharge could be commuted to extra days in prison, but there was still a tariff and that only applied at magistrates court.

    This anomaly has now been corrected and the surcharge can no longer be commuted to extra days in prison.

    In addition the whole rationale of the rant was wrong, as of 1 October 2012 – some 7 weeks before the article was posted, the victim surcharge was a proportion of the fine, not a flat rate, with a minimum of £20, not the £15 stated.

    The £15 is for a conditional discharge.

    Also wrong in the original rant was that the victim surcharge is also under the auspices of the Sentencing Council, where you can find the full list of tariffs – https://www.sentencingcouncil.org.uk/about-sentencing/types-of-sentence/other-orders-made-on-sentencing/what-is-the-victim-surcharge/

    As for all those whining about paying this money, it goes to provide victim services and isn’t ‘compensation’ to individual victims.

    If you don’t want to pay the surcharge – don’t commit the crime in the first place – simple.

  11. Joan Williamson says:

    Get rid of the ridiculous “victims” surcharge! I have never been in trouble with the police but, if ever I am, I certainly won’t be paying this charge unless there IS a victim!

  12. Christo Money says:

    This piece of legislation is similar in essence to the very popular Booking Fee when purchasing event tickets; why is an individual expected to pay an additional fee when they are actually paying a fee for the service in the first place…?
    To better clarify my point, let me use a run of the mill speeding court case as a hypothetical example.
    When an individual is prosecuted for this offence they receive a punishment, usually in the form of a fine. What exactly happens to the proceeds of this fine? Who receives the funds and what are they then used for?
    Well, one can presume a significant proportion of the fine is used to pay for the Legal system which has just been used to ‘collect’ the fine in the first place But then what of any residual balance, what happens to this?
    Would it be fair to suggest that a proportion of this balance – if not all of this balance – should go into a Victims Surcharge pot of some nature? And, should this be the case, why is there the case for adding the rather questionable additional levy of the Victim Surcharge to a defendant’s fine? Is this not simply an additional ‘Fine’ for the same offence?
    All of this, of course, does not not begin to address the question of should an individual who has transgressed a law against the State be forced to pay into a fund to compensate Victims who have been subject to crimes against their person?
    An individual who has fractured a law against the State, I would suggest, is far removed from an individual who has committed a grievous wrongdoing against another human being, or animal for that matter. This latter individual should be wholly responsible for the compensation for their victim – and whilst the reimbursement of this compensation may take them the rest of their life to clear this indebtedness – the funds derived from the aforementioned example of a motoring crime primary ‘fine’ should be able to handle the direct payment to the victim.

  13. Kristopher Nicholson says:

    Victim surcharge, although it helps fill the pot for compensation payouts from CICA they very rarely pay out the expected legally defined amount and will use excuses like “”alleged” previous criminal convictions”” so even if you are just known to the police they won’t pay the full amount as according to the governments own legislation because you have an “alleged” loyalty card. Fines should cover any costs incurred for illegal activities and the fines should appropriately reflect the seriousness of the crime.

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