The Prison and Courts Bill has been scrapped after a public committee vote as Parliament comes to the end of its session and switches focus to pushing more urgent legislation through prior to the newly-called General Election.
This bill was a government plan allowing those accused of minor criminal offences to be able to plead guilty and pay fines, compensation, and associated legal costs online. This was to be optional, with the accused able to go to court still if they so decided. This would have only been used in simple prosecutions with a pre-determined fine, such as rail fair evasion or the non-payment of a parking ticket.
This pilot was to be extended to certain ‘clear cut’ driving offences if successful which, it was thought, would free up court time and resources to deal with more serious matters.
The bill was seen favourably by most, but had some opposition in that it ‘interfered with the rule of law’ and did not allow those accused a fair chance of being heard, despite the fact that a guilty plea even in person would allow very little chance to be heard anyway in such simple process-driven proceedings.