In the Media

Prisoners to be liable for victim surcharge

PUBLISHED July 2, 2012

Monday 02 July 2012 by Catherine Baksi

The government has outlined plans to fine all convicted criminals, including those jailed, to raise funds to help victims. It is already owed almost £600m in unpaid fines.

The justice secretary, Kenneth Clarke, today announced plans to increase the amount paid by offenders to victims through the victim surcharge from around £10m a year to £50m. This is in addition to the £66m central government spends each year on victim and witness support services.

Currently the surcharge is paid only by people punished with a fine, at a flat rate of £15. Clarke proposes extending liability to all convicted offenders, including those who are sent to prison, and increasing the sums paid.

Under today's announcement, offenders who are fined will pay 10% of that fine as a victim surcharge, up to £120. Offenders given a conditional discharge will pay £15 and those given a community sentence will pay £60.

Anyone given a custodial sentence will contribute £80, £100 or £120 depending on the length of sentence. The changes will be introduced in October, the Ministry of Justice said.

Enforcing payment may prove difficult: statistics for January to March, published last week by the Ministry of Justice, revealed that the government is owed £593m in unpaid fines, including sums towards the victim surcharge.

Clarke also announced plans to stop criminal injuries compensation payments to people with unspent serious convictions. Such payments have added up to £75m over the past decade. In future, compensation payments will be focused on those who have received the most serious injuries rather than sprained ankles, cuts and grazes.

Among other changes intended to improve the help given to crime victims, Clarke said the Victims Code will be revised and support services will be commissioned locally by elected police and crime commissioners.

Clarke said: 'These changes provide victims of crime with better, more personalised support and force offenders to take more responsibility for their crimes, instead of the taxpayer bearing the brunt of funding victims' services. With offenders currently only contributing around a sixth of the funding that supports victims' services, the balance is clearly wrong.

'Our plans will see offenders contribute up to £50m.'