Ministry of Justice scraps 'conviction by computer' law

Election nixes online court plans – for now

The controversial "conviction by computer" Parliamentary Bill has been scrapped ahead of June's general election, according to reports.

The Prisons and Courts Bill has been dropped by the government as it starts winding down legislative activities, reported the Law Society Gazette.

David Lidington, leader of the House of Commons, confirmed on Thursday that the bill would not be included in the so-called "wash up" stage of laws rushed through Parliament before the Commons is dissolved at the end of this month.

Among other provisions, the Bill would have paved the way for the government's conviction-by-computer plans. These would have allowed instant fines to be given to people who plead guilty to dodging train fares or TV licence fees.

The original proposals were given the go-ahead in February in spite of opposition from justice campaigners.

As we reported at the time, defendants persuaded to plead guilty online will automatically be issued a fine, prosecution costs, ordered to stump up an amount for compensation and be made to pay the appropriate victim surcharge.

"The automatic online conviction procedure will contribute to the government's aim of delivering a service that is just, proportionate, accessible to all and works better for everyone," the government said at the time.

With court digitisation forming a large part of the government's reform proposals, it is entirely probable that this will crop up again after the election, once the dust has settled and the inevitable Cabinet reshuffle has taken place and new ministers are bedded in. For now, you'll still be able to have your day in court instead of making a credit card payment from the luxury of your own bed. ®

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