Minor traffic offences to be heard by new courts in England and Wales
- 17 May 2013
- From the section UK
Dedicated traffic courts are to be set up in England and Wales to prosecute minor motoring offences following a pilot scheme in nine areas.
The move is part of a drive to cut delays in the criminal justice system and free up magistrates' courts to deal with more serious cases.
Each year, 500,000 minor motoring offences go through the courts.
Ministers say such cases clog up the courts, which should be dealing with more serious offences.
Dedicated traffic courts have been piloted in Essex, Hampshire, Kent, Lincolnshire, Metropolitan Police, Nottinghamshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and West Yorkshire and police have said they had successfully "simplified" the legal process.
The plan is to open a traffic court in every police area by April 2014, and to use specialist prosecutors to deal with up to a 160 cases a day.
Cases they could hear include speeding, traffic light offences and those relating to insurance and driving licences.
The new courts will only have jurisdiction in the 90% of cases where motorists admit their guilt; if they contest the offence, it will be dealt with by magistrate courts as at present.
Justice Minister Damian Green said enforcing traffic laws was hugely important for road safety but the time it was taking to hear cases - especially those when drivers had accepted their guilt - was "simply unacceptable".
"The justice system must respond more quickly and effectively to the needs of victims, witnesses and local communities, and these dedicated courts will enable magistrates to better organise their work and drive greater efficiency," he said.
Labour said it welcomed moves to make courts more efficient and specialised.
"It is important that we have swift justice, and I look forward to seeing results of how this works in practice," said the party's shadow justice spokesman Sadiq Khan.
But Mr Khan said the measures amounted to "low-hanging fruit" and much bigger savings could be identified through a root-and-branch review of the courts and prosecution systems.