Offender accountability extended

agendaNi explores the offender levy scheme following the announcement that it is to be rolled out to incorporate road traffic offences.

First introduced in 2012, the offender levy scheme was devised to ensure that those over the age of 18 would be made more accountable for the harm their actions have caused.

The scheme in its original form added a further monetary penalty to certain sentences in court, or to particular fixed penalties by police.
The rates of fines include £15 for court imposed fines, £25-£50 for immediate custodial sentences depending on sentence length and £5 for fixed penalties issued by police.

One of Claire Sugden’s initiatives during her short-term as Justice Minister has been to extend the scheme to include endorsable fixed penalties issued by the PSNI and the Driver Vehicle Agency, including those issued in relation to speed cameras.

The roll-out of this new scheme is expected to provide an additional £150,000 per year.

The scheme will require offenders to pay an additional £5 into the dedicated Victims of Crime Fund, which supports victims and witnesses in the criminal justice process. To date the scheme which is managed by the Department of Justice, has raised over £800,000.

In 2015-16, of the £233,020 funding allocated, £179,020 went to Victim Support NI for support services for victims and witnesses (including a contribution towards the implementation of cloud computing) and £54,000 went to NSPCC Young Witness Service Support.

Speaking about the extension of the scheme, Sugden said: “Victims and witnesses play a vital role in the effectiveness of the criminal justice system. It is important that they are supported by quality services, and that we continually seek to improve those services, and that those who break the law should make a contribution to improving those services.

“Road traffic offences impact on the community as a whole and have the potential to cause serious injury, or worse, death in some cases. The change will further enhance the support offered by government to the victims of these crimes.”

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