Monday, July 11, 2005

Register Your Car - Or Else!

I have grumbled before about the torrent of new legislation and procedure that has come close to overwhelming courts faced with making it all work. So much law has been hurriedly passed that the highest judges in the land have had to apply themselves urgently to make sense of it.

At the end of last year the first cases were heard by magistrates under the new continuous registration legislation, designed to ensure that all cars are either registered or subject to a SORN declaration that they are off the road. This legislation requires magistrates to impose a minimum penalty of £1,000 on those who have neither renewed their excise licence nor made an SORN declaration. This was fixed in the 2003 Finance Act and slipped through, unnoticed by the Department for Constitutional Affairs, the Justices' Clerks' Society and the Magistrates' Association. Magistrates are given no discretion and do not have the power to take account of the defendant's means, which runs contrary to one of the basic principles of sentencing, and indeed of justice.

The Mags' Association has approached the DVLA and they have agreed to use the legislation only in 'exceptional circumstances'. No cases have been brought since last year.

So an unjust law is in force, and the enforcing authority has graciously consented not to use it!

What a shambles.

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