Magistrates’ Court Fines to Rise?

On 10th June 2014, the Government announced proposals to increase the financial penalties Magistrates will be able to impose.
One change may see the maximum fine for motorway speeding increased to £10,000, from £2500.

Justice Secretary, Jeremy Wright, said that fines "set at the right level" were an effective punishment for offenders.

Proposals will be considered in Parliament to introduce unlimited fines for offences where there is a current 'level 5' maximum of £5000.
Fines in the Magistrates' Court are based on levels. Each offence has a recommended level set upon which a Court can base its sentence.
The proposals (enabled by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012) could see the following changes:

  • Level 1, fine increase from £200 to £800
  • Level 2, from £500 to £2,000
  • Level 3, from £1,000 to £4,000
  • Level 4, from £2,500 to £10,000

These would apply to a full range of offences, not just motoring. Yet it is inevitable that many facing motoring allegations will be concerned by these proposals.

Often road traffic cases are isolated in their nature. Penalty points or disqualification are also imposed and serve as a deterrent. It is questionable if greater financial penalties are also necessary to punish the offender, especially when insurance premiums also increase following conviction.

It must be noted that all cases must be considered on their individual facts and the personal circumstances of the offender. The Courts will reserve the highest level of punishment for the most serious of offences. They must always take into account personal mitigation and the person's means. These proposals therefore should be read in the context of the Court's full sentencing guidelines and the extensive variables that apply.

Headline figures of maximum fines are undoubtedly aimed at sending a deterrent message but they must not deter someone from contesting a case in court where they genuinely believe they are innocent of the allegation.

These proposals will be monitored by our motoring law specialists.

For further information or advice, please contact Woodfines Solicitors' Criminal and Regulatory team on 01908 202150.

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