New Court Tax Slammed by Criminal Lawyer

15:15 AEST Mon Sep 24 2012

A top criminal defence lawyer says there is a risk the Queensland government’s new offender levy will create the precedent of treating courts like an automatic teller machine.

Prominent Gold Coast lawyer Bill Potts says the $100 to $300 fee for people pleading guilty or found guilty on a range of offences, announced in the budget, is a pure revenue raising measure.

“The real fear is now they have started there’s a risk the state will increase the offender levy or create new fees every time they want to generate some cash,” he said in a statement.

“The courts’ become just a big ATM machine.

“This is wrong and the whole idea should be urgently reconsidered.”

Anyone found guilty in a magistrates court will be stung $100, in the supreme and district court it jumps to $300.

The levy will apply regardless of whether a conviction is recorded.

“Quite often people appearing before the courts are cash-poor but if they don’t pay this levy it is referred to the State Penalties Enforcement Registry which takes a very hardline attitude toward non-payment of fines,” Mr Potts said.

“Failure to pay the extra fine could see the person facing stiffer fines or even jail time.

He urged Premier Campbell Newman and Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie to reconsider the offender levy, or at least give judges some discretion on imposing it.