Fleet News

Dedicated courts to deal with low-level traffic offences

Every area is to have a dedicated ‘Traffic Court’ to deal with low-level road traffic offences, justice minister Damian Green said today.

Local areas are being urged to work with the judiciary to set up the courts as part of proposals to reduce delays and focus more on serious and contested cases.

This forms part of the Government’s vision for a more efficient and effective criminal justice system that meet the needs of victims, witnesses and communities.

Green said: “Enforcing traffic laws is hugely important for road safety, and saving lives.

“However these cases take nearly six months on average from offence to completion, despite the fact that over 90% of cases result in a guilty plea or are proved in absence – this is 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.”

There are around half a million summary motoring cases heard every year including speeding, traffic light and document offences.

Although these offences are relatively minor they often take longer from offence to completion than much more serious cases.

A task force of partners across the criminal justice system was set up to look at why this was the case and recommend how the system could be improved, to ensure the cases are dealt with both justly and efficiently.

ACPO lead for criminal justice, chief constable Chris Eyre said: “We have implemented this new procedure to traffic cases with great success in nine police forces; radically simplifying and speeding up the process.

“This is only implemented when there is a guilty plea or where the case against a defendant is not contested.

“Effective first hearings have significantly reduced the amount of adjournments and a single court can deal with up to 160 cases a day.”

The Government believes that having dedicated ‘traffic courts’ will enable criminal justice agencies to focus their resources on fewer centres and sessions using specialist teams of prosecutors.

It is discussing with judiciary, who are responsible for managing cases in the courts, how this ambition can be delivered across the country.

The traffic courts are part of the Criminal Justice Strategy and Action Plan. The aim for traffic offences is by April 2014 to have delivered:

• A centralised traffic court in each police Area
• Maximum use of postal requisitions
• Maximum use of Live Links in court
• Digital cases files for all traffic proceedings
Offences dealt with in the dedicated traffic courts could include:
• Driving licence related offences
• Lighting offences
• Load offences
• Miscellaneous motoring offences (including trailer offences)
• Motorway offences (other than speeding)
• Neglect of pedestrian rights
• Neglect of traffic directions
• Noise offences
• Obstruction, waiting and parking offences
• Offences particular to motorcycles
• Speed limit offences
• Vehicle insurance offences
• Vehicle test offences
• Vehicles or parts in dangerous or defective condition

There are currently nine pathfinder areas where centralised courts have been trialled along with police-led prosecutions. These are:

• Essex
• Hampshire
• Kent
• Lincolnshire
• Met Police
• Nottinghamshire
• Norfolk
• Suffolk
• West Yorkshire

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