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Speeding Fines Set To Soar

The Government is set to introduce sweeping changes to the law that will see maximum speeding fines on motorways quadruple from £2,500 to £10,000. Under the new regime, magistrates will also be given the power to hand down fines of up to £4,000 for speeding on other roads, again a four-fold increase from the current £1,000 limit.

The Government is set to introduce sweeping changes to the law that will see maximum speeding fines on motorways quadruple from £2,500 to £10,000. Under the new regime, magistrates will also be given the power to hand down fines of up to £4,000 for speeding on other roads, again a four-fold increase from the current £1,000 limit. The fine for mobile phone use while driving will also quadruple. Motoring organisations have condemned the huge increases, calling them ‘draconian’. They have also warned that motorists who believe that they are innocent of any offence could decide not to challenge the conviction for fear of incurring penalties that would be truly punitive.
 
Another major change in the legislation is that magistrates will be able to give out unlimited fines for offences perceived as more serious, like driving without insurance or careless driving. Justice minister, Jeremy Wright, defended the changes saying: “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.”
 
Some motoring organisations, however, have warned of the effects such huge increases would have on drivers who feel they are innocent, pointing out that their access to the appeals process could be effectively removed and the justice system damaged as a result. President of the AA, Edmund King, said: “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. If we had more cops in cars on the motorway that would be a much more effective deterrent.”
 
Mr King was joined by the director of the National Motorists Action Group, Rupert Lipton, in raising concerns. Mr Lipton referred to the rise in fines as draconian and disproportionate. He also pointed out that it could have what he called a ‘serious chilling effect,’ deterring motorists from challenging convictions that they think are unfair. He suggested that the current level of fine was adequate, saying: “For general speeding allegations you’re allowed to take a fixed penalty, currently £60 and three penalty points on your licence, or agree to complete a speed awareness course. But if you wish to challenge it you can currently face six points and a £1,000 fine on non-motorway roads or £2,500 on the motorway. I think that is enough of a deterrent for people who are thinking about taking a chance and going to court, but raising it four-fold is clearly an over-reaction.”
 
Director of the RAC Foundation, Professor Stephen Glaister, also questioned the wisdom of a four-fold increase in the levels of fines imposed on errant drivers. He agreed that lawbreakers should face the consequences but asked what was so wrong with the previous system that it required such sweeping changes. He also pointed out that speeding offences have actually declined in recent years and the Department for Transport’s own figures show that traffic speeds, even allowing for the effects of congestion, have been decreasing on British roads for more than a decade. 
 
A Ministry of Justice spokesman confirmed that the process of making changes in the legislation required for the increase in fines was already underway in Parliament, in what will be the first significant change to the penalty regime since 1991. The changes in driving fines are part of a wider overhaul of the justice system, which will see magistrates in lower courts be given powers to hand out increased fines for all sorts of offences. The new structure will see offences divided into different levels, with associated fines quadrupled across the board. In the highest level of offences, level five, magistrates will be allowed to impose unlimited fines. It is thought that the changes in the fine structure could become law quickly because legislation has already been passed two years ago which allows magistrates’ courts to extend maximum fines.

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