Justice minister Jeremy Wright has announced plans to quadruple the amount that speeding motorists face if they take their cases to court. This means that drivers caught speeding on the motorway could face a fine as high as £10,000, while those caught over the speed limit on urban roads would face a maximum penalty of £4,000. Critics have said that it will discourage drivers from challenging a potential speeding conviction, and that it will essentially erode access to justice for those that are accused of speeding.
Under current laws, the maximum fine depends on the type of road a driver is clocked on, as well as the speed that they were caught doing. The full maximum fines also only apply for cases that are taken to court, and those that accept the charge and accept any Fixed Penalty Notice that is offered will typically receive lower fines than the amounts stated.
Drivers that are caught on rural roads and dual carriageways and have their cases heard in court can be fined up to a maximum of £1,000 under current regulations. However, motorway speeders can receive a fine of up to £2,500. The courts are not only supposed to consider the circumstances of the offence itself, but also the ability of the individual to be able to pay. So, for example, those on benefits would typically receive a lower penalty than those that are earning large sums.
The greatest criticism of the planned changes is that it may prevent access to fair justice for many people. Currently, accepting a Fixed Penalty Notice means that the maximum fine will be £60. Contesting this charge, however, means that the case goes to court, and under current rules that means the maximum penalty will increase to either £1,000 or £2,500 depending on the type of offence. With higher maximum fines, critics say that people will be less inclined to contest the charge, even if they genuinely believe their innocence.
The new legislation has to be debated in Parliament but no definitive timetable has been set for this debate, so there is no clear timeframe for when the new regulations may come into force.