A MAGISTRATE of 16 years’ service has quit over a “foolish” and “ridiculous” £180 criminal court charge imposed on a destitute asylum-seeker, it was revealed yesterday.
Nigel Allcoat, from Leicestershire, offered to chip in towards the penalty faced by the man in his 20s, who has not been identified.
But when he attempted to contribute as a “humanitarian” act at Leicester magistrates’ court three weeks ago, he was suspended.
When an investigation by the Lord Chancellor’s advisory committee into Mr Allcoat’s action was launched, the 65-year-old resigned.
He follows in the footsteps of more than 50 magistrates who have resigned in protest since the coalition government introduced the fine, which is intended to defray court costs. It is not means-tested and cannot be waived.
Mr Allcoat said: “It was a young man in his 20s from Europe who has been ordered to pay this charge and was brought in front of me as he hadn’t paid.
“He was seeking asylum, which means it would have been breaking the law if he had been found with money or working, so how was he to pay this charge?”
People seeking asylum are given top-up cards that have £35 added to their balance each week and can only be spent in certain stores.
Mr Allcoat said the man had previously relied on the support of a friend to pay a £60 victim surcharge, a gesture which he described as “generous.”
But when the man failed to keep up payments on the penalty, he was brought back to court and could be sent to prison for non-payment.
Mr Allcoat added: “I just can’t belong to an organisation that puts people in foolish situations like this. This charge has never been thought through.”