During the consultation the Magistrates’ Association and the Justices’ Clerks’ Society were concerned about the operation of the scheme and its impact on judicial independence.
My Department worked with the Magistrates’ Association and the Justices’ Clerks’ Society to address these concerns via the Criminal Enforcement Policy Advisory Group.
Following those discussions the Magistrates' Association and Justices’ Clerks’ Society issued guidance on the application of the Victims’ Surcharge to magistrates through their members.
An internal audit on the operation of the Victims’ Surcharge process within the courts is currently being undertaken and my officials will continue to work with the Magistrates’ Association and the Justices’ Clerks’ Society on this matter.
Representations have been received by the Home Office, the former Department for Constitutional Affairs, and the new Ministry of Justice, since the surcharge was brought into force on 1 April 2007 on offenders whose sentence included a fine. The following information is the total received to date and updates the information given in the letter of 15 August 2007 by my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, East (Bridget Prentice) to the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew) and my written answer of 16 July, Official Report, column 151W, a copy of which was placed in the Library of the House.
Members of Parliament forwarded to the Government 72 letters and emails from members of the public about the surcharge. Forty-five of these were from people identifying themselves as magistrates. Of these, one magistrate sent letters to five different MPs, and two magistrates wrote jointly to four different MPs. The Government also received a petition signed by 48 magistrates from the Calderdale (North and West Yorkshire) Magistrates' Bench.
The Government also received 13 letters directly from members of the public (eight of whom identified themselves as magistrates) and two letters from the Magistrates' Association.