UK

Speeding fines to rise for most serious cases - Sentencing Council

  • 24 January 2017
  • From the section UK
Speed camera sign Image copyright PA
Image caption Magistrates will be able to fine an offender 150% of their weekly salary

Speeding fines for the most serious cases in England and Wales will rise by up to 50% after a review of sentencing guidelines for magistrates' courts.

A driver caught doing 41mph in a 20mph zone, or 101mph on a motorway, could be fined 150% of their weekly income.

Animal cruelty captured on camera will see a harsher sentence, with the most serious offenders sent to prison.

But the least serious cases of TV licence payment evasion will no longer result in a fine.

The Sentencing Council said it wanted to ensure a "clear increase in penalty" as the seriousness of offending increases.

It said the changes were not intended to result in significant differences to current sentencing practice, but to target specific offences.

The current limit for a speeding fine is 100% of the driver's weekly wage, up to £1,000 - or £2,500 if they are caught on a motorway.

When the new guidelines come into force on 24 April, magistrates will be able to increase the fine to 150% - although the upper cash limit will stay the same.

The most serious speeding cases subject to the rise

  • 20mph speed limit; 41mph and above recorded speed of driver
  • 30mph; 51mph +
  • 40mph; 66mph +
  • 50mph; 76-85 +
  • 60mph; 91mph +
  • 70mph; 101mph +

Source: Sentencing Council

In 2015, 166,695 people in England and Wales were sentenced for speeding offences and 166,216 were fined.

The average fine was £188, but two people were also sent to prison.

The Sentencing Council held a consultation with magistrates and criminal justice professionals in 2016.

The feedback was that current guidelines "did not properly take into account the increase in potential harm that can result as speed above the speed limit increases".

As a result, it has increased the penalty to send a clear message.

Do magistrates have to stick to the guidelines?

Image caption It is all about the "interest of justice", according to the council
  • Sentencing guidelines must be followed, unless a judge or magistrate feels it is not in the interests of justice to do so
  • If a judge or magistrate believes that a guideline prevents the correct sentence from being given in an exceptional case, he or she can sentence outside of the guideline
  • Guidelines set sentencing ranges within the maximum for the offence as set out in current legislation
  • When legislation changes, guidelines are amended as appropriate

Source: Sentencing Council

A number of other sentences have been looked at during the review, including those for animal cruelty.

For the first time, additional aggravating factors of "the use of technology to publicise or promote cruelty" and "an animal being used in public service or as an assistance dog" are being included - the latter highlighting the treatment of police dogs and horses.

The council said the most serious cases should lead to prison sentences, and the sentences should be of an appropriate length.

'Fair and proportionate'

In cases of TV licence fee evasion, the new guidance means magistrates can impose a non-financial penalty, known as a conditional discharge, meaning the person will not be sentenced unless they commit another offence.

This will only be used in cases where people have made significant efforts to pay the fee.

A TV Licensing spokesman said that in practice, the new penalty would only be used "in a very limited number of circumstances".

"This step does not change the nature of the enforcement of the licence fee", he added.

In 2015, 166,000 people were fined for licence fee evasion.

More than one million offenders go through magistrates court in England and Wales every year.

Malcolm Richardson, national chairman of the Magistrates Association, said it was essential magistrates had effective guidelines to help them give "fair and proportionate" sentences.

"These new guidelines will further help ensure the consistent effectiveness of the magistracy," he said.

Council member and district judge Richard Williams said: "The magistrates' courts deal with the vast majority of offenders in England and Wales, so it is essential that the guidelines they use are up-to-date and help ensure that sentences are applied consistently and effectively."

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