North Tyneside magistrate resigns over new court fee that ‘forces innocent to plead guilty’

North Tyneside magistrate George Lyons said “justice is only going to be for those who can afford it” after Criminal Courts Charge introduced

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A North East magistrate has resigned over new court fees that “force the innocent to plead guilty” and means “justice is only going to be for those who can afford it.”

Since April criminal defendants have had to pay an “outrageous” new levy of up to £1,200 for standing trial – with fees potentially quadrupling if someone pleads not guilty and are then convicted.

Now George Lyons, a member of the bench in North Tyneside for 15 years, has turned his back on the role, and written to the Magistrates Association’s Magistrate magazine claiming the fees put pressure on people to admit crimes they did not commit in order to avoid a bigger bill.

“This is a terrible piece of legislation introduced through the back door,” wrote Mr Lyons, who fears the rules – which courts have no discretion over – could “criminalise many people because that is the option” for them.

“Justice is only going to be for those who can afford it.”

He is among 20 magistrates across the country to have told the Magistrates’ Association they were resigning amid fears that the system is now both convicting the innocent, and seeing many “uncollectable” fines issued – as many defendants are serial offenders on low incomes who will be unable to pay.

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