Magistrates will soon have the powers to fine motorists caught speeding on motorways as much as £10,000, with maximum financial punishments set to quadruple.
The Government has announced that magistrates will have greater flexibility in deciding penalties for offenders who commit a range of crimes, including the dangerous driving associated with road traffic accidents.
They will be able to set unlimited fines for some of the most serious crimes they are asked to deal with, including offences which adversely affect the environment. At the moment they are restricted to issuing fines of up to £5,000.
The changes come after laws passed by Parliament in 2012.
When deciding on sentences magistrates follow guidance that sets out how they should punish offenders depending on the seriousness of the crime they commit.
- The maximum punishment for level 1 offences like racing cycles on public routes without permission will rise from £200 to £800.
- The highest fine for level 2 crimes such as riding a motorbike without a crash helmet will increase from £500 to £2,000.
- The maximum punishment for level 3 offences like selling booze to someone who is already drunk or being drunk and disorderly in public will be lifted from £1,000 to £4,000.
- The highest fine for motorway speeding and other level 4 offences will increase from £2,500 to £10,000.
High court fines ‘a good deterrent’
If fines are set at the right levels they can be an excellent way of making sure criminals are punished and discouraged from breaking the law again, according to Justice Minister Jeremy Wright.
He describes magistrates as of crucial importance to the system of justice in Britain and said the changes will give them more powers to protect local communities.
In 2012/13, £284 million worth of fines were collected, which was a record amount and proceeds are expected to increase even further in the subsequent 12-month period.
Back in 2012 the Government passed the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act and part of it gave magistrates the ability to set unlimited fines for certain crimes, but it has taken time for the Government to draw up the legislation for it.
The changes have been criticised by motoring organisations, which say they will put people off from challenge speeding tickets they think they should not have received.
Source: Auto Express