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Home > News > Careless Driving > Motoring Offence Fines To Be Unlimited
motor offence fines to be banned

Guest Blog by John Ruane

On 12 March 2015 new subsections of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) were introduced which have now done away with the £5,000 cap that used to limit the maximum fine that Magistrates could impose on offenders.

Magistrates have now been given new powers to impose sterner penalties on those that have committed “level five” offences. The fines are still means assessed. Therefore, it allows for sterner punishments for particularly wealthy offenders and enables for more proportionate fines to be handed down to offenders that have the financial capability to pay larger penalties.

With the new provisions just coming in this month, we have outlined some of the most common questions we expect they will raise for anyone facing a serious motoring offence and how this could affect them:

How will these changes affect those convicted of motoring offences?

The majority of road traffic offences are “summary only” and therefore can only be tried in the Magistrates’ Court. The offence of dangerous driving is an “either way” offence and therefore can be tried in either the Magistrates’ Court or the Crown Court. When the Magistrates decide which Court is to hear the case they are directed to lean toward trying the offence summarily (in the Magistrates’ Court) unless their sentencing powers will be insufficient to do so. The fact that there is no longer a cap on how much the Magistrates can fine an offender means that more either way offences can be tried summarily rather than being referred to the Crown Court.

Another potential consequence of the removal of the cap is that is leaves open the possibility of larger fines being imposed rather than custodial or community orders. This may be unpalatable for those that believe a prison term should be imposed for more serious offences and that almost all offenders would prefer a larger fine to serving time in prison.

What do the government hope to achieve?

Justice Minister, Mike Penning has indicated that Magistrates sentence the majority of offenders and he hopes that removing the previous maximum fine will provide them with more powers to hand down “appropriate punishment with the severity they see fit”. It is likely that wealthiest offenders and corporate bodies will feel the impact of the changes more than most.

What does the future hold?

At present the Magistrates’ sentencing guidelines are yet to be updated. Therefore it remains to be seen what approach the Magistrates will take to these changes. In many cases the changes will be inconsequential because it will be a rarity that an individual’s monthly income would be large enough to warrant a fine in excess of £5000. The changes have only been implemented this month so it will probably be easier to understand their impact six months from now.

The Magistrates can still only impose a maximum custodial sentence of six months and the changes will not affect the Crown Court’s sentencing powers.

Common Motoring Offences to Which Unlimited Fines Apply

Not all motoring offences will have the option of an unlimited fine. The following motoring offences will be caught by the new rules:

If you are concerned that the offence with which you are charged or have been summonsed for may be affected by the law changes, please feel free to get in touch with our expert motoring law team 0800 1389 123.

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