Maximum fine could increase to £10,000
Drivers who speed on motorways could face a fine of up to £10,000 under new proposals. The highest maximum limits, for offences including motorway speeding, could increase from £2,500 to £10,000. Justice Minister Jeremy Wright said “financial penalties "set at the right level" were an effective punishment for offenders. 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.”
His proposals could also see magistrates having unlimited fining powers for offences where there is currently a maximum of £5,000 or more. Any new legislation would first have to be debated in Parliament but there is no current timetable for any such discussion.
Most offences that could involve a fine in magistrates' courts are subject to specific maximums, known as levels, which currently range from £200 to £5,000. Some cases, such as environmental offences, can involve even higher fines. Magistrates take into account the seriousness of the offence when setting the fine level. Rupert Lipton, director of the National Motorists Action Group, described the proposals as "disproportionate and draconian”. He said "I think it will have a serious chilling effect. We will find motorists will be deterred from going to court where they don't believe they are guilty of an offence and there is a potential challenge."
Amount of a fine should reflect seriousness of offence
The fact that the maximum fine at level 4 for speeding on a motorway is being increased to £10,000 does not mean that is the sum an offender will have to pay, even if their speeding is at the most serious end of the scale. Whilst the amount of a fine must reflect the seriousness of the offence, the court must also take into account the financial circumstances of the offender. So is this really a deterrent. Normally a fine should be of an amount that is capable of being paid within twelve months. If someone on benefits is caught speeding down the motorway they are not going to be given a £10,000 fine that they have no realistic prospect of paying.
Should there be tougher penalties for speeding? It is one of the biggest killers on the road and perhaps bigger fines would deter but perhaps the thought of losing your licence is a bigger deterrent.