Skip to main content

Changes to motoring offences

The Government recently released its Strategic Framework for Road Safety, which looks at the causes of serious road accidents, identifies areas that need to be developed and introduces some sensible and not so sensible plans for driving offences.

Fixed penalty notices

The most talked about plan is the continuation of Tony Blair's policy of excluding the courts from the Criminal Justice System through the use of fixed penalty notices and effectively turning police officers into road-side prosecutors, judges and juries.

The latest batch of fixed penalty notices will allow police officers to punish careless drivers with an on the spot fine.  The Framework gives two reasons for this change.  First:
"... to make it more efficient and less time consuming for police to enforce."
Sorry to any officers reading this, but if we render that sentence into plain English, it would appear that the Government are suggesting you are all too lazy to take cases to court.  The second reason is:

"... [to] enable more people to be offered rehabilitative education... "
With the greatest of respect to the Government, this reason doesn't make sense.  Why must further education go hand in hand with a fixed penalty notice?  Why, for example, can't the courts offer this training after prosecution?  Oh hang on a minute they do already do that.

More importantly than that from a drivers point of view is that the Framework also makes clear that the Government plan to increase the fixed penalty fine from £60 to £100 for virtually all fixed penalty offences, including speeding etc.

Drink and drug offences

The Framework also contains plans, albeit not very advanced plans, to level the playing field as between drink and drug driving offences.  This is partly a technical issue about developing and using tests to identify people suspected of driving under the influence of drugs.  There are however changes that also show more Blairesqe thinking in their approach to prosecuting offences.

Currently, if you are breath tested and blow within 40% of the prescribed alcohol limit then you are offered the option of a blood test to confirm the level.  There is a very good reason for this, which is that blood tests are far more accurate than the breath test.  However, under the proposals in the Framework, drivers will no longer have the right to take a blood test if they blow below 40% of the limit.  The explanation given is that it will "... increase the effectiveness of police enforcement activity... ", although you may also read this as "it's one less hurdle for us to get over on the road to improving conviction rates."  They do also make the good point that it is unfair to let some people get off because there is a delay in getting a properly qualified medic to take the blood sample; so, no more star jumps in the cell while you wait for the FME then.

Interestingly, the Framework goes on to explain that there will not be a decrease in the drink drive limit as 40% of offenders are more than 2.5 times over the limit.  If that is the case, then I don't fully understand why they need to remove the blood option as they themselves seem to think it will hardly affect anybody.

Increased level of forfeited vehicles

The Framework moves on to express a desire that the police will make more use of their powers to seize vehicles used by people who commit road traffic offences, but it does not provide any particular suggestions as to how this could be achieved.

Uninsured and unlicensed drivers

I imagine that it is fairly obvious why unlicensed drivers are involved in a disproportionate number of serious crashes, but it may not be so obvious why uninsured drivers are similarly involved in high numbers of serious crashes.

Personally, I put the reason down to being that people willing to take the risk of not buying insurance are more likely to take the risk of driving more dangerously than others... I heard a policeman put it in terms once that people who commit one type of crime tend to ignore other areas of law as well.

This part of the Framework contains some interesting proposals... one so interesting that I'm surprised Liberty aren't complaining about it.  The Framework suggests allowing insurance companies access to persona information about drivers from the DVLA database so that they can make a more informed decision when offering insurance to us.  This means they'd be no hiding place for people who 'forget' to declare convictions.  I don't personally mind this, so long as the insurance companies cannot make changes to the DVLA database - I say that after having to contact my biker insurer to tell them that since I took the policy out two years ago they have managed to change all of my details for no obvious reason, so according to them I now had only lived in the UK a couple of years, am married with no children and have no convictions for speeding, one of those at least is nice.

This is one area where they have clear plans about seizing vehicles and the Framework states that from June 2011 the Continuous Insurance Enforcement will fine people and seize the vehicles of those who fail to insure their vehicles without first notifying the DVLA that their vehicle is off the road (a SORN declaration).


The Framework is quite a lengthy document that combines details of problems, with half-thought out ideas and a sprinkling of actual solutions that will become law.

The important thing to take away is to remember:
  • If you are offered a fixed penalty notice then take legal advice before sending the form back to the court.  You may find you have a defence or could save yourself the expense of fighting a doomed case;
  • Remember to buy that insurance before your old policy expires or you could find yourself with a fine and court bailiffs trying to seize your car.


  1. A simple precise and accurate commentary; a damn good post.

  2. Thank you for a very concise informative article.

    You wrote:
    I imagine that it is fairly obvious why unlicensed drivers are involved in a disproportionate number of serious crashes, but it may not be so obvious why uninsured drivers are similarly involved in high numbers of serious crashes.

    Please cite the statistical data, if you are able to.

    You also go on to say:
    The Framework suggests allowing insurance companies access to persona information about drivers from the DVLA database so that they can make a more informed decision when offering insurance to us.

    Insurance might not be purchased because it may be too expensive. This policy will cause insurance to be even more expensive for larger portions of society?

  3. Wonderful images. Thanks for the share.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Ched Evans

Before I begin, I will say that at around 4,500 words this is probably the longest blog I’ve ever posted but I think it’s all necessary to set the scene for this case and explain the background that has been largely ignored or airbrushed in the press. Despite its length, I have not attempted to include every little detail of either fact or law but have done my best to provide a balanced picture of the Ched Evans case, what happened and why the courts reached the decisions they did. There has been so much written about the Ched Evans case over the past weekend, much of it based on a very shaky grasp of the facts and law, that I decided I would read up about the case and weigh in (hopefully on a slightly firmer footing than most of the articles I’ve read so far).

Broadly speaking there seem to be three groups who have opinions on the case:
1.Sexual violence groups (including people describing themselves as “radical feminists”) who appear to take the view that the case is awful, the Court o…

How do the police decide whether to charge a suspect?

A question I’m often asked by clients (and in a roundabout way by people arriving at this blog using searches that ask the question in a variety of ways), is “how do the police decide whether to charge or take no further action (NFA)?”
What are the options?
Let’s have a quick think about what options are available to the police at the end of an investigation.
First, they can charge or report you for summons to attend court.  Charging means that you are given police bail and are required to attend court in person.  A summons is an order from the court for you to attend or for you to send a solicitor on your behalf.  In many cases where a person is summonsed, the court will allow you the option of entering a plea by post.
Second, you may be given a caution.  These can be a simple caution, which on the face of it is a warning not to be naughty in future, or it can be a conditional caution.  Conditions could include a requirement to pay for the cost of damage or compensation, etc.  Either…

Bid to prevent defendants knowing who accuses them of a crime

When I read The Trial by Kafka and Nineteen Eighty-Four by Orwell, I took them as warnings of how a bad justice system wrecks lives of those caught up in it. Sadly, some Members of Parliament and the House of Lords seem to view the books more as a guide to how they would like our Criminal Justice System to run. Today, I read of plans to hide the names of accusers and witnesses from defendants in a large number of cases. Victims of sexual offences, such as rape, have had the right to lifelong anonymity for many years now. This means that it is a criminal offence to publish information that will lead to a complainant being identified. A Bill currently being considered by Parliament would extend that anonymity to bar defendants and their lawyers knowing the name of the person accusing them. This would apply not only in sexual offences, as has been reported in the press, but also in violent offences.
The anonymity currently offered to victims of sexual offences is not total, the complainant…