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Speeding Penalties Set to Soar

Speeding Penalties Set to Soar

The government is to increase the severity of penalties relating to driving offences, as part of a series of sweeping reforms to magistrates’ powers. The maximum fine for speeding on a motorway is to be quadrupled to £10,000, while fines for road traffic offences such as using a mobile phone at the wheel, ignoring red traffic lights or breaking the speed limit on dual carriageways will be increased from £1,000 to £4,000. Magistrates will also have the power to impose unlimited fines for more serious offences, such as careless driving or driving without insurance.

Jeremy Wright, the justice minister, stated: “Financial penalties set at the right level can be an effective way of punishing criminals and deterring them from further offending. Magistrates are the cornerstone of our justice system and these changes will provide them with greater powers to deal with the day-to-day offences that impact their local communities.”

New legislation for the higher fines has been laid out in Parliament, and a Ministry of Justice spokesman said it would be the first change to the penalty structure since 1991.

Increase in speeding fines “disproportionate and draconian”

Motoring organisations were disappointed by the announcement, and warned that the changes could result in innocent motorists neglecting to challenge speeding tickets in court for fear of incurring greater penalties “For the vast majority of drivers the prospect of the existing £2,500 fine is a pretty good deterrent against excessive speeding on the motorway. We would not condone excessive speeding in any way but fines have to be proportionate to the offence and one has to question whether increasing the fines four-fold is proportionate, and it probably is not,” Automobile Association‘s President Edmund King stated. “If we had more cops in cars on the motorway that would be a much more effective deterrent,” he added.

Professor Stephen Glaister, the director of the RAC Foundation, said: “People who break the law should bear the consequences but this seems such a wholesale change to the system you have to ask what was going so badly wrong before?”

Meanwhile, Rupert Lipton, director of the National Motorists Action Group, described the proposals as “disproportionate and draconian”. He said: “I think it will have a serious chilling effect. We will find motorists will be deterred from going to court where they don’t believe they are guilty of an offence and there is a potential challenge.”

Caroline Dunne, consultant and road traffic offences solicitor comments:

Whilst road traffic laws exist to promote safety for road users an increase in financial penalties at this level is extreme and the reasons do not seem clear. The Magistrates already have the power to impose a disqualification on those caught speeding and a fine of up to £2,500, what evidence is there to suggest that by quadrupilling the fines available that those that speed will cease to do so? If road safety is the motivation for this, and not the increase in revenue, education would be a far more effective tool. Speed awareness courses are an effective reminder of the consequences of exceeding the prescribed speed limits. Currently these courses are more usually offered to those who exceed the speed limit at the lower end of the enforcement band. One of the reasons for such courses existing is that education is likely to be far more effective than a fine and points. A greater use of these courses in speeding cases would questionably raise road safety far more effectively than a financial penalty which in reality would not be available to most motorists due to the guidelines on how fines are calculated.

However, road safety campaigners backed the move, with Brake’s James McLoughlin commenting: “Speed is one of the biggest killers on our roads and, through the support we provide for victims of road crashes, we bear witness to the devastating effects of speeding. Limits are there for a reason, and more needs to be done to deter those who choose to put other road users at risk by breaking them.”

Early road traffic offences advice vital

Road traffic offences encompass offences such as speeding, driving with excess alcohol or excess axle weight. Some offences are dealt with by the imposition of penalty points on a driving licence and some are not. Some offences attract obligatory disqualification and some discretionary disqualification. The accumulation of penalty points has different consequences depending upon the driving history of the offender.

When a driver accumulates 12 or more points on their licence over a three-year period, a magistrates’ court must consider disqualifying the driver for a minimum period of six months. However, a specialist lawyer can put forward arguments to try to persuade the court not to disqualify the offender from driving, or to impose a disqualification for a shorter period.

If you are facing a road traffic prosecution, the most important thing you can do is to get early legal advice.

If you or a family member has been charged with a road traffic offence, IBB’s specialist road traffic team can help. Call 0330 999 4999 for immediate help or 01895 207928. Alternatively, email us at criminaldefence@ibblaw.co.uk