Victim surcharge to increase - And be payable by a wider range of offenders
This article highlights changes to the victim surcharge that come into effect for offences on or after 1 October 2012.
What is it?
The victim surcharge was first implemented in 2007 and was payable at a rate of £15 by any offender ordered to pay a fine in the Magistrates' Court or Crown Court. All monies raised through the victim surcharge are collected and distributed to assist and support those people who have been victims of crime.
How is it changing?
On 2 July 2012 the Government published a response to the consultation entitled 'Getting it Right for Victims and Witnesses' and proposed to increase the value of the surcharge ordered with fines and to extend it so that it would be payable by a wider range of offenders.
A Court must order the victim surcharge when it deals with an offender in respect of an offence committed on or after 1 October 2012 on the following basis:
Offenders under 18 years at the time the offence was committed
|Youth Rehabilitation Order||£15|
|Adult Community Order||£15|
|Suspended Sentence of Imprisonment||£20|
|Custodial Sentence (all lengths)||£20|
Offenders over 18 years at the time the offence was committed
|Fine||10% of the fine value with a £20 min and £120 max (to be rounded up to the nearest £1)|
|Immediate Custodial Sentence||£80 – six months and below|
|£100 – over six months and up to and including two years|
|120 – over two years|
|Suspended Sentence of Imprisonment||£80 – six months and below|
£100 – over six months and up to and including one year
Additional points to note
The victim surcharge will initially only be payable by an offender subject to an immediate custodial sentence when imposed by the Crown Court but not the Magistrates' Court. This discrepancy will be remedied in the near future we understand after legislation is introduced.
According to a circular distributed by the Ministry of Justice on 28 September 2012 it is envisaged that where a court imposes more than one disposal for one or more offences, the surcharge should be ordered against the individual disposal attracting the highest surcharge amount. This principle applies whether the types of disposal ordered are the same (eg multiple fines) or different eg a fine and a community sentence. So for example if in relation to two offences if that person is fined £100 and £200 the surcharge would be 10% of the higher amount ie £20.
Where an offender is sentenced for a single offence committed before 1 October 2012 the old scheme (£15 flat fee where a fine has been imposed) will continue to apply.
When an offender is sentenced for more than one offence at least one of which was committed before 1 October 2012 the 'old scheme' applies.
When a court deals with an adult offender for more than one offence all of which were committed after 1 October 2012, but where at least one of those offences was committed when under 18, the Surcharge should be ordered at the rate for under 18's.
Tim Williamson, head of the Drivers defence team at Blake Morgan commented:
"This is an important change and is likely to prove controversial, particularly with motorists. I imagine that the Government will have difficulty 'selling' this change to an increasingly sceptical motoring public.In my view the Government needs to recognise that there is work to be done to sell this change to motorists and set about doing so. The rationale behind the scheme; that money should be allocated to help those who have suffered as a result of crime ought not to be particularly controversial. The question is where should that money come from? Should such funds be paid for out of taxation? As with many of its legal developments over the years, there is a risk that the merit of what is a laudable and worthwhile objective is lost and viewed as yet another stick to be used to beat the motorist. Many motorists in Oxford and throughout the country in fact are sceptical when they are first told about the surcharge because they believe that there is no victim in a case such as speeding. The case for change needs to be made and it needs to be made swiftly and persuasively by those who have sought to introduce it."