Magistrates refuse to hand out new charge

PUBLISHED: 17:26 12 April 2007 | UPDATED: 13:56 04 May 2010

ELY magistrate Alan Williams has resigned after he broke the law by refusing to impose the new £15 victim surcharge on a Littleport teenager. After 14 years on the bench Mr Williams stepped down in protest at the immoral new charge. The decision by Mr W

ELY magistrate Alan Williams has resigned after he broke the law by refusing to impose the new £15 victim surcharge on a Littleport teenager.

After 14 years on the bench Mr Williams stepped down in protest at the 'immoral' new charge.

The decision by Mr Williams and his fellow magistrates at the city courthouse on Thursday morning flew in the face of legal advice given by their court clerk Di Pinter, and decided that Raymond Cole - who admitted possessing cannabis - should not be asked to pay the extra cash.

"We feel it is morally wrong, and may be in contravention of other aspects of the law," said Mr Williams.

Under new legislation introduced this month, the government requires magistrates to impose the surcharge on anyone fined for an offence committed after April 1.

Issuing a statement from the podium of the courthouse, Mr Williams said: "The magistrates had not been informed directly of the new regulations, so the court clerk briefed us in the retiring room.

"We have been told by the clerk we have no alternative but to impose the surcharge, but we have decided not to impose the £15, in full knowledge of the advice given."

Mr Williams said it was not appropriate to impose the surcharge on 19-year-old Cole, because it was not relevant to the case. He stressed: "This is the decision of this bench alone, it is not the policy of the East Cambridgeshire bench."

Immediately after their decision was announced, court clerk Mrs Pinter informed the Clerk to the Magistrates, Tim Daber.

Later in the day, Mr Daber said legislation made it mandatory for magistrates to impose the £15 surcharge.

A spokesman from the Judicial Communications Office said last week: "If they are refusing to obey or enforce a relevant law, that would be incompatible with holding judicial office.

"If they knew the law was clear and were making some sort of point, it would be inappropriate to sit while that is being investigated."

Sixty-year-old Mr Williams resigned on Wednesday after telling magistrates' authorities he would never impose the charge.

He argues that the charge would be used to tax motorists and that it would make magistrates tax collectors.

Prosecutor Nick Davies told how police found Cole, of Ely Road, Littleport, in a car on the old A10 between Ely and Littleport on April 3. Officers smelled cannabis, and before a drugs search was carried out, Cole produced two packets of the class C drug from a tin.

Cole told the court: "I know I have a drug problem. This is a wake up call for me; it shows I have to sort things out." He was fined £150 with £43 costs.

*Government sources say revenue from the victim surcharge will fund a range of services helping victims of crime and witnesses.

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