Drivers who are caught jumping red lights and breaking the speed limit will now be dealt with in special traffic courts in a bid to free up time for cases of more serious law-breaking. Offending motorists, who would usually be summoned to a magistrates court, will instead be handled by new traffic courts under the government’s new proposal.
The new scheme is designed to reduce the strain on the UK’s justice system. According to the Ministry of Justice, magistrates courts deal with half a million motoring cases every year that often take longer to deal with than more serious offences.
“Enforcing traffic laws is hugely important for road safety and saving lives,” Justice Minister Damian Green explained. “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,” he added.
Under the new proposal, traffic courts will only be used when a guilty plea or a case against a defendant is not contested.
Essex, Hampshire, Kent, Lincolnshire, Metropolitan Police, Nottinghamshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and West Yorkshire are the first to test the new traffic courts and so far the results have been positive. “Effective first hearings have significantly reduced the amount of adjournments and a single court can deal with up to 160 cases a day,” Chief Constable and lead on the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) Chris Eyre commented.
Most agree a shake-up of the justice system is necessary, but Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan thinks the traffic courts are a small step. “It’s important that we have swift justice, and I look forward to seeing results of how this works in practice. But this is the low-hanging fruit of problems in our criminal justice system.”
“Real savings and efficiencies would avoid the need for the Government’s increased use of cautions for serious offences and mean that their proposed cuts to criminal legal aid, that risk doing so much damage to the justice system, could be abandoned,” he said.
The government is currently in talks with the judiciary over how the traffic court system can be delivered across the UK.