New punishments introduced this week for drivers caught speeding in England and Wales have provoked a mixed reaction among police, press, speeding fine solicitors, motorists, and road safety groups
Although road safety groups have welcomed the new guidelines, some police officers and press commentators have expressed concern that the new regime will only increase the burden on the courts system.
"By increasing the fines the likelihood is that people will think 'hang on, I am going to make sure 100 per cent that the evidence stands up to scrutiny' and challenge it in court," Tim Rogers, Police Federation lead on pursuit and driver training, told press.
"The potential increase in not guilty pleas will increase the burden on the judicial system and the dwindling number of officers."
The new guidelines introduce a staggered fine structure for motorists caught speeding. For example, a motorist caught doing 51mph in a 30mph will receive a Band C fine of 150% of their weekly income, a motorist caught doing between 41mph and 50mph on the same road will receive a Band B fine of 100% of their weekly income, while a motorist caught doing between 31mph and 40mph in the same location will be fined 50% of their income. Some argue that the staggered structure is seriously undermined by the fact that there is a cap on fees: £1,000 or £2,500 if caught driving on a motorway.
Of course, it makes sense that fines should reflect the seriousness of the offence. However, the larger question is whether police have the resources to enforce the system. Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation is just one expert who has doubts about the chances of consistent and meaningful enforcement, particularly as between 2010 and 2015 the number of full-time specialist traffic offence enforcement officers in England and Wales fell by nearly 30%.
Whatever the case, it is important to remember that the vast majority of drivers – those who drive responsibly and within the speed limit will not be affected. That said, there is an important caveat to this: there will undoubtedly be scores of drivers who are incorrectly accused of speeding or who face large and punitive fines for exceeding the speed limit but in exceptional circumstances.
It is these drivers who will require the helping of motoring offence lawyers if they are to realistically have any chance of ensuring justice.
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