Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

North Magistrate Quits over New Court Charges

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

North Magistrate Quits over New Court Charges

Article excerpt

Byline: Sophie Doughty Crime Reporter

AMAGISTRATE told today why he just had to quit the bench after new court fees were introduced which he believes put justice in jeopardy.

After 15 years of passing judgement in North Tyneside, George Lyons has resigned to avoid having to impose the new Criminal Courts Charge on defendants, which he believes will financially force innocent people to plead guilty.

The 67-year-old, from Shiremoor told of his regret at leaving a role he loved and the reasons why he could not support the new legislation.

He said: "I just wasn't comfortable with it. People would be criminalising themselves just because it's the cheapest option. Justice should not be about incentives.

"It certainly wasn't an easy decision to step down. I wish I was still there, but I felt I could just not bring myself round to work with this new legislation.

"I'm really saddened to see the justice system go this way. I wish I was still able to be there and do what I was doing. It was something I felt very proud of. I was in a very privileged position."

Since April criminal defendants have had to pay a new levy of up to PS1,200 if they chose to stand trial, with fees potentially quadrupling if someone pleads not guilty and is then convicted.

Mr Lyons is among 20 magistrates across the country to have told the Magistrates' Association they were resigning over the new legislation.

Mr Lyons was instantly concerned as soon as he saw details of the new fees. "My first reaction was this new legislation would make people plead guilty on the basis of cost. Pleading guilty would be the cheapest option for them, rather than fighting their corner. And it is not means tested.

"It is supposed to make those people using the court system pay for the court system. But when you are right at the sharp end you see it's nowhere near that. …

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