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'

by Sarah Barth   December 15, 2013  

Gavel

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

19 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

It will be interesting to see just how much drivers cost the justice system.

posted by Belaroo [44 posts]
15th December 2013 - 20:19

14 Likes

Makes you realise how tolerated traffic offences are, i don't mean legally, but by drivers, that so many speed, illegal park, dangerous driving etc. that the courts can't cope.

But we all "know" it is cyclists with no lights, no pedal reflectors, and jumping red lights are the problem!!!

mrmo's picture

posted by mrmo [1113 posts]
15th December 2013 - 20:40

18 Likes

"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"

.....So all of the above offences are treated as low level offences, all of which, could, with the possible exception of "Noise offences", be held responsible death or serious injury
of innocent third parties.

Goes to show, what a shambles so called "British Justice" is.

"Ministers say move will free up magistrate's courts to deal with more serious crimes 'that affect community and victims'"

All of the above offences "affect community and victims".

What chance have we got?

TDL

tourdelound's picture

posted by tourdelound [86 posts]
15th December 2013 - 21:03

17 Likes

Lighting Offences - ridding in North Surrey I wasn't sure that was still a crime - at least it's not enforced against the amount of vehicles with lights out.

RhysW's picture

posted by RhysW [74 posts]
15th December 2013 - 21:26

10 Likes

though I have no problem with what is being done I'd say the wording of the announcement says much about the thinking of the Justice Ministry about vehicle related offences - the wording implies that low level vehicle offences don't have an impact on people and communities - but offences like pavement parking, speeding, failing to stop at crossings, deter people from walking and cycling and for those that already drive everywhere reinforce the mindset that walking or cycling is inconvenient and dangerous - it's a bit like only using KSI data to determine road planning or the murder rate to decide if somewhere is pleasant to live - its the low level stuff that impacts people's quality of life and this press release fails to acknowledge that

posted by antigee [152 posts]
15th December 2013 - 23:38

14 Likes

Perhaps this might reduce the reluctance to prosecute some of these 'minor offences' with the knowledge that now the special traffic offences courts can process the offences faster and more efficiently. Lets press for more throughput and greater enforcement.

Could be very profitable - many of these minor offences still rank as Level 3 with a maximum fine of £1000, so a single session could bring in £100,000 in fines. Should sort out things for the Treasury there.

47 years of breaking bikes and still they offer me a 10 year frame warranty!

A V Lowe's picture

posted by A V Lowe [484 posts]
16th December 2013 - 0:42

16 Likes

Now if only they would allow these courts to impose a realistic fine as well. Stick 2 zeros on all fines please.

posted by mattsccm [259 posts]
16th December 2013 - 8:10

9 Likes

Quote:
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.

Rubbish, the sentence is still nothing.

posted by drfabulous0 [342 posts]
16th December 2013 - 10:48

10 Likes

drfabulous0 wrote:
Quote:
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.

Rubbish, the sentence is still nothing.

and what would you need to actually get a 5 year, in reality 2.5Year sentence?

mrmo's picture

posted by mrmo [1113 posts]
16th December 2013 - 10:58

19 Likes

My takeaway from this is that offences such as "Speed limit offences", "Neglect of pedestrian rights", "Obstruction, waiting and parking offences" are not deemed serious and do not warrant the attention of a full court, despite the fact that they are all behaviours which have the potential to result in the serious injury or even death of an innocent third party.

They could call it the slap-on-the-wrist-and-off-you-go court.

posted by pmanc [117 posts]
16th December 2013 - 12:03

12 Likes

tourdelound wrote:
.....So all of the above offences are treated as low level offences, all of which, could, with the possible exception of "Noise offences", be held responsible death or serious injury
of innocent third parties.

Goes to show, what a shambles so called "British Justice" is.

"Ministers say move will free up magistrate's courts to deal with more serious crimes 'that affect community and victims'"

All of the above offences "affect community and victims".

What chance have we got?

They are not regarded as "low level" for any other reason than that they are not the most serious of offences such as causing death by dangerous driving, dangerous driving, drink driving, failure to provide etc.

You can make a case that every offence carries the potential for lethality and injury so every offence is serious. The trouble with that philosophy is that if everything is serious or treated as such then nothing is more serious than anything else.

The point about the traffic courts is to process the routine offences quickly and get them out of a more expensive forum of a general magistrates court. Traffic courts being specialised in nature means that the judiciary involved will be far more au fait with the law.

One of the reasons I think that traffic offences have been treated very leniently is the fact that they are heard in a general court. So having just listed to cases of perhaps common assault, fraud, theft etc you then have the same magistrate hearing an sp30 offence or such like. ie the routine traffic offences appear trivial compared with some of the other stuff they deal with. Traffic courts will only hear traffic offences and therefore traffic offences will be more, rather than less likely, to be given their due weight. That's good for cyclists, pedestrians and dare I say it sensible drivers.

Cycling is like a church - many attend, but few understand.

posted by oozaveared [631 posts]
16th December 2013 - 12:23

12 Likes

oozaveared wrote:

The point about the traffic courts is to process the routine offences quickly and get them out of a more expensive forum of a general magistrates court. Traffic courts being specialised in nature means that the judiciary involved will be far more au fait with the law.

I hope your right, my question is, if these are being processed in bulk, what if the defendant argues it isn't fair, that s/he should have right to defend themselves? what is the appeal process etc.

mrmo's picture

posted by mrmo [1113 posts]
16th December 2013 - 12:39

10 Likes

Anyone who wants to appear in court can do so and have a fair trial still

Sarah Barth's picture

posted by Sarah Barth [988 posts]
16th December 2013 - 12:59

13 Likes

mrmo wrote:
oozaveared wrote:

The point about the traffic courts is to process the routine offences quickly and get them out of a more expensive forum of a general magistrates court. Traffic courts being specialised in nature means that the judiciary involved will be far more au fait with the law.

I hope your right, my question is, if these are being processed in bulk, what if the defendant argues it isn't fair, that s/he should have right to defend themselves? what is the appeal process etc.

Just because it's heard in a traffic court doesn't mean you loose your rights. You'll still be able, as now, to plead guilty/not guilty and have your case heard.

And to add to previous comments
-if death/injury results from one of this list of low level offences then clearly the CPS would have the option to charge a more serious offence.
-in relation to a 5 year sentences for dangerous driving causing injury- this is a longer sentence than GBH (without intent)
(see http://sentencingcouncil.judiciary.gov.uk/docs/Assault_definitive_guidel... )

If you want the specifics in relation to death by dangerous driving they are here; http://sentencingcouncil.judiciary.gov.uk/docs/web_causing_death_by_driv...

Jonteam

posted by teamjon [18 posts]
16th December 2013 - 13:32

9 Likes

mrmo wrote:
oozaveared wrote:

The point about the traffic courts is to process the routine offences quickly and get them out of a more expensive forum of a general magistrates court. Traffic courts being specialised in nature means that the judiciary involved will be far more au fait with the law.

I hope your right, my question is, if these are being processed in bulk, what if the defendant argues it isn't fair, that s/he should have right to defend themselves? what is the appeal process etc.

They are proper courts so the fairness issue doesn't apply they will always have the right to defend themselves. Most of the time traffic offences don't really have a "defence". You either were or you weren't doing what is alleged and the police have the evidence to prove you were that's why you were summonsed. In most cases going to court is to plead guilty but offer some sort of mitigation in the hope of a reduced fine or to avoid a ban or other sentence.

The traffic courts will be hearing cases where the driver hasn't simply accepted a fixed penalty and wants their day in court.

I had a colleague once that was caught speeding and already had 9 points. If he accepted the FPN that would have resulted in 3 more points and have triggered a minimum 6 month ban. He went to court to plead that six of the 9 points he already had were a month or so from being removed. and that the other three were for an sp30 on a dual carriageway and were also pretty old. He pleaded that he needed his car for his job. So they gave him 2 points and the maximum fine, plus maximum costs and ordered he attend a speed awareness course at his own expense. (I think they should have banned him btw) but that's an illustration of what goes on in traffic cases that are not dealt with by FPN.

Cycling is like a church - many attend, but few understand.

posted by oozaveared [631 posts]
16th December 2013 - 13:41

12 Likes

Love the logic of your colleague Ooza. Obviously 3 points weren't any
sort of deterrent if he racked up 6 more on top. Just annoying he was allowed to negotiate. No points in rules if you can break them and then twist the consequences. Some drivers remind me of the beginning of Porridge with a couple of word changes. You are an habitual (speeder) who views (points) as an occupational hazard..'

I agree with you. He should have been banned and had he lost his job as a result then that would have been tough.

Silly me. You're probably right....

MercuryOne's picture

posted by MercuryOne [1059 posts]
16th December 2013 - 14:11

9 Likes

It's irrelevant what the sentence is for dangerous driving, it's been proved time & time again that the cps are reluctant to use it. Watch any of the traffic cop type shows to see just how poor the sentencing is for traffic offenders, £145 fine & 18 month ban for a trucker 3 times over the limit is pathetic. One guy, already banned from driving, caught driving again = 9 mth jail, suspended for 1 year & another ban! Pointless & gutless.

posted by Fatbagman [19 posts]
16th December 2013 - 14:27

10 Likes

Large problem of up holding the minor offences is that in the past the police have not bothered largely. Take a very simple offence like parking facing oncoming traffic at night. It is so common the authorities trun a bind eye to it whereas they cold make a fortune in fines once a reasonable warning had been given. Same goes for other minor offences.

posted by Guyz2010 [284 posts]
16th December 2013 - 14:27

7 Likes

I don't feel like you would get "your day" in court if it is only dedicated to traffic offenses. I would imagine it would become more of a rubber stamp than a true court proceeding

posted by jarredscycling [451 posts]
16th December 2013 - 17:50

5 Likes