Minor traffic offences to be heard by new courts in England and Wales

Traffic Trials of the new courts have been successful, police say

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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.

'Swift justice'

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.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    There's not driver in the land that hasn't broken the speed limit. I know I have. The limits are there for good reasons, even if they are not apparent at the time, so if your caught, don't whinge just pay up, look big and be more careful in the future. But there is a huge difference to 100mph at 5am on an empty motorway and 35mph in an urban or village setting and penalties should reflect this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    Speed does not kill! That is a fact. It is impact that kills and that is caused by stupidity, bad driving, thoughtless pedestrians and mechanical failure. Just look, on any motorway, at the number of idiots who stay in the middle lane, cruising along at 50 mph and turning a three lane road into a single lane. They should be stopped, booked and given a heavy fine, it is very dangerous!

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    The 'speed kills' propaganda needs to stop now. Inappropriate speed kills and that should be the message. Motorists are mercilessly persecuted by councils and the emotive 'speed kills' rubbish gives them free reign to pollute our environment with traffic calming and excessive signage everywhere. Sometimes it's entirely safe to go more than 30mph butmany now seem indoctrinated to believe it's a sin

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    Another relevant thought, it’s about time that we had a separate traffic police division that could be paid for by the fines raised from law breakers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    Driving kills and injures thousands every year, so I deplore this apparent trivialization of driving offenses.
    BUT - there should be more discretion. The system is clogged by people a few mph over a limit when no-one is about; while those who kill, injure, drive grossly fast, deliberately ignore lights, cut in at junctions etc. too often go unpunished.
    More traffic police, less court-time - yes!


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