Convicted criminals in England and Wales will have to pay up to £1,200 towards the cost of their court case under new rules, it has been revealed.
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said the Criminal Courts Charge would ensure criminals “pay their way”.
The fees, which come into force on 13 April, are not means-tested and will start at £150.
The Magistrates Association warned this could place a burden on people with little income.
Defendants who admit their offences will pay less than those convicted after a trial, which the association said could encourage innocent people to plead guilty to avoid the risk of higher payments.
It said the scheme should be reviewed after six months.
The fee will be paid on top of fines, compensation orders and defendants’ own legal charges.
It will not be linked to the offender’s sentence, but will be imposed at a level set according to the costs of their case, with the maximum level for crown court cases.
The charge can be paid by instalments.
A government assessment suggested that in 2020 the system could raise £135m after costs
The BBC’s home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw said that officials warned that by then the court service will be owed £1bn in unpaid fees.
Courts already have the power to award “costs” against criminals as part of their punishment, but that is to reimburse any expenditure by the prosecution team that the court decides it would be “just and reasonable” to have paid by a losing defendant.
But the new charge would mean that offenders are making a direct contribution to the costs of running the court itself.
Under the current rules, convicted criminals can also be ordered to make payments to cover compensation for victims, as well as a Victim Surcharge – which funds victims’ services.
All of this is separate from the sentence itself, which in some cases can be a fine.
Mr Grayling said: “We’re on the side of people who work hard and want to get on, and that is why these reforms will make sure that those who commit crime pay their way and contribute towards the cost of their court cases.”
Richard Monkhouse, Magistrates’ Association chairman said: “Now that this is law, relevant agencies need to ensure proper processes are in place to make this work.”