Monday, September 10, 2007

I Beg To Differ

Another blogging JP has posted his views on the very common offence of driving without insurance. With respect, I think that my colleague has got it wrong about the level of fines, and here's why. Firstly, there is no 'standard' fine any more because the Guidelines (see page 72 of the pink sheets) suggest fines at level A B or C, dependent on the defendant's income. Secondly, there has never been any rule that the fine must exceed any premium, and thirdly, many courts such as mine will always disqualify when there is aggravation such as no licence and MoT.
In the old days when fines were highly inconsistent we would sometimes see people in court, receiving benefits, who owed fines in the thousands due to a couple of no insurance offences, and often a lack of car tax too. Someone on £45 per week, faced with a fine of perhaps six months' income, would simply pay nothing. Since there is primary legislation requiring a fine to be readily payable within a reasonable time, we would end up slashing those fines to a manageable level. Like it or not, that means that someone on £47 per week Jobseekers' Allowance cannot realistically be fined more than about £250 in total, which is what you can collect in a year.
Now that we impose realistic fines, and enforce them vigorously, our collection rate has shot up from barely 50% to nearer 90%. We are shortly to put hand-held card terminals into our courtrooms too.

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