Government plans to roll out traffic courts to deal with low-level driver offences across England and Wales
Ministers say move will free up magistrate's courts to deal with more serious crimes 'that affect community and victims'
Dedicated traffic courts will be in action in all areas of England and Wales in the next six months, Justice Minister Damian Green has said.
29 of the courts have already been set up, allowing low-level traffic cases -such as speeding, traffic-light and document offences - to be grouped together and dealt with at one local magistrate’s court.
Up to 100 cases are dealt with in a single session, freeing up the courts for more serious crimes.
Traditional court arrangements mean that an average of 35 cases are listed a day, covering a mix of traffic cases and other crimes such as assault or shoplifting. These crimes, which the Ministry of Justice perceives to have more of an impact on victims and communities, can be given more focus under the new arrangements.
The government aim is to establish dedicated ‘traffic courts’ in all 42 police-force areas.
Justice Minister Damian Green said: “The safety of the general public is paramount, and we take road safety very seriously, which is why we have recently increased the sentence for causing serious injury by dangerous driving to 5 years imprisonment.
“However, low-level traffic offences such as speeding can take up to 6 months from offence to completion which is a huge drain on the smooth running of the criminal justice system, and takes focus away from more serious offences. This is simply unacceptable.
“We want all areas to have a dedicated traffic court, and we are on track to reach this target. Traffic courts from West Yorkshire to Sussex have shown how effective and efficient this process can be.”
Bradford, West Yorkshire, has been identified as having the highest number of uninsured cars in any town in the UK. Every year courts in the region deal with over 1,400 of these types of offences, which could take an average of 6 or 7 months.
However since the introduction of traffic courts in the area these cases now take an average of 4 months, and a higher proportion of cases are resolved at first hearing.
The government hopes to roll out across England and Wales by April 2014.
Offences dealt with in the dedicated traffic courts could include:
- Driving licence related offences
- Lighting offences
- Load offences
- Miscellaneous motoring offences (including trailer offences)
- Motorway offences (other than speeding)
- Neglect of pedestrian rights
- Neglect of traffic directions
- Noise offences
- Obstruction, waiting and parking offences
- Offences particular to motorcycles
- Speed limit offences
- Vehicle insurance offences
- Vehicle test offences
- Vehicles or parts in dangerous or defective condition