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Swift Justice For Motoring Offenders

Swift Justice For Motoring Offenders

The announcement has been made today that dedicated traffic courts are to be set up to mete out swift punishment for minor traffic offences. It seems that the half million or so offences that occur each year are clogging up our courts. The government thinks that by setting up these summary centres of justice it will free up the magistrates for more important issues.

Apparently this has been trialled at nine areas around England and is about to be rolled out across both England and Wales. Scotland has its own system. The pilot schemes have simplified the legal process according to the police. By April 2014 every police area will have one of these traffic courts.

They will be overseen by so-called ‘specialist prosecutors’ who will deal with up to one hundred and sixty cases a day. This is where the idea gets a bit more concerning. Magistrates are appointed from the populace. They don’t need specialist legal qualifications but that do have to meet long established standards of fairness and community spirit, amongst other things. They receive training and have a legal adviser on hand.

In what way then are these traffic courts any different? Who appoints these ‘specialist prosecutors’ and where do they come from? If they are members of the public who volunteer to serve and who receive training for the job, doesn’t that make them magistrates? Get the idea?

We sincerely hope that these court officers are not members of the police force for example. Neither should they be legal professionals. Mind you, they only have jurisdiction in the ninety percent of cases where the miscreant motorist pleads guilty to the said minor offence. Thankfully, if the driver wants to contest the case it has to be heard in a proper magistrates court. So maybe that nagging concern isn’t justified, although it is still hanging in the air like a bad smell from the boot of the car.

Perhaps it is because motorists have been a cash-cow for local and national governments for years that it smacks a bit of being a money-making exercise. We’ll see. In the meantime the law obviously has to be enforced and if it speeds things up for all concerned and saves tax payers money in the long term it may not be a bad thing. Let us just hope that the rule of fairness and impartiality still applies.

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Geoff is a freelance writer and photographer.

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