Page last updated at 13:02 GMT, Saturday, 2 January 2010

Motorists face new 15 'victims levy'

Motorist on phone
A driver caught on their phone is fined 60 and receives three points

Motorists in England and Wales fined for minor offences face having to pay bigger penalties under a government scheme to compensate victims of crime.

Since 2007, a £15 surcharge has been added to the fines of all people convicted of a crime, to raise money for support services for crime victims.

Now ministers want to extend the scheme to on-the-spot fines and fixed penalty notices for a range of offences.

They say the offences that could be targeted are not victimless crimes.

Under the current scheme, anyone fined by the courts pays an extra £15.

However, ministers believe the amount raised could be significantly increased if it were extended to include people issued with on-the-spot fines or fixed penalty notices.

This could include motorists caught speeding or flouting parking restrictions and those guilty of disorder offences such as shoplifting, writing graffiti or being drunk and disorderly.

Motorists need to obey the rules of the road but they also have to believe what they get penalised for committing relatively minor offences is fair
Professor Stephen Glaister, RAC Foundation director

Under the plans, a fine of £60 for speeding, using a mobile phone while driving or not wearing a seatbelt would be increased to £75.

In November last year, Justice Minister Claire Ward, said: "It is government policy that, where possible, offenders should contribute to victims' services as part of their reparation."

Speaking in the Commons, she told MPs a surcharge would be added as soon as it was "feasible to do so".

But Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, suggested the government would have a hard job convincing motorists this was anything other than a "stealth tax".

"Motorists need to obey the rules of the road but they also have to believe what they get penalised for committing relatively minor offences is fair, and not just some arbitrary figure."

He argued that if money was needed to be set aside for victims, it should come out of existing charges.

'Stealth tax denial'

Steve Fowler, of What Car? magazine, called for assurances that such a "massive windfall" would go to the right places.

"The police and the government need to explain exactly where this money is going. Every penny needs to go to the victim support scheme so it's not seen as another tax."

There's £40m of unpaid compensation so if you were a victim and awarded compensation, the chances of receiving that compensation are very, very low
John Thornhill, Magistrates' Association chairman

Government officials deny the move amounts to a stealth tax.

They say such offences are not "victimless crimes" as thousands are killed or injured on Britain's roads every year and others have their lives ruined by anti-social behaviour.

John Thornhill, chairman of the Magistrates' Association, criticised the levy system, saying the money was going to victim support agencies, rather than the victims themselves.

His association is calling for a victim fund to be established so that when magistrates order for compensation to be paid to a victim, it can be paid in full immediately.

"There's £40m of unpaid compensation so if you were a victim and awarded compensation, the chances of receiving that compensation are very, very low," he said.

The current levy, which was introduced in England and Wales as part of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004, works in conjunction with the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme that pays compensation to the victims of violent crime.

The levy has raised nearly £4m in 2007/8 and £8m in 2008/9 for several victim services including Victim Support, the Victims Fund and the Crown Prosecution Service's witness care.

Prior to its launch, the Home Office - which was responsible for the initiative at the time - said the surcharge was part of a series of moves to "rebalance" the criminal justice system in favour of victims.



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Mirror.co.uk Councils 'claim 1.9bn on parking' - 5 hrs ago
Guardian.co.uk Motorists face penalty charge hike - PA - 41 hrs ago
Sky News Heftier Driving Fines To Swell Victims' Fund - 42 hrs ago
Telegraph Motorists face 15 'victims tax' - 43 hrs ago
The Sun 15 extra on car fines for victims - 53 hrs ago



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