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MoJ to press ahead with online conviction plans

Digital handling of some offences has come a step closer following a Government consultation.

The Ministry of Justice has said in its response to the Transforming Our Justice System paper that as an experiment defendants would be able to enter a guilty plea and pay a penalty online for initially three offences.

These would be railway fare evasion, tram fare evasion and possession of unlicensed rod and line.

If this proves successful, the system would be extended to certain road offences, though the response does not specify these.

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Online conviction would “contribute to the Government’s aim of delivering a service that is just, proportionate, accessible to all and works better for everyone”, the MoJ said.

“The procedure will provide a more efficient and proportionate way of dealing with low level cases with no identifiable victim, freeing up magistrates’ time and space in court buildings to be focused on more complex cases.”

Use of the online procedure would be voluntary and those convicted would not be “sentenced by a computer or algorithm”.

Penalties would be set in secondary legislation and would include a victim surcharge as a percentage of the fine, a standardised amount of prosecution costs and where appropriate compensation, for example for lost fare revenue.

The response also dealt with opinions on the composition of tribunal panels.

It said consultation responses had shown “a high level of concern around the proposal to introduce a default of single member panels in the unified tribunals, particularly in jurisdictions where there may be a high proportion of vulnerable users”.

This proposal has been dropped and instead the First Tier Tribunal and Upper Tribunal (Composition of Tribunal) Order 2008 will be amended to say a panel may comprise one, two or three members as required.

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