Magistrates Association Right on Fixed Penalties
Careless Driving “Inappropriate” for Fixed Penalties
The ABD today welcomed the Magistrates' Association' s attack on the new fixed penalties for careless driving.
Magistrates' spokesman Chris Hunt Cooke is quoted in the Daily Telegraph 1
“Once they have been given these powers, the police will misuse them, that is a certainty, and careless driving will be generally treated as a minor offence, unless serious injury is involved.”
The ABD have always been critical of the trend towards issuing huge numbers of fixed penalties for absolute offences irrespective of the circumstances. This type of activity alienates the public and both distracts and undermines the efforts of trained traffic police in dealing appropriately with bad driving.
“We want the police to target dangerous behaviour, but introducing a fixed penalty for careless driving is not going to achieve this,” said ABD spokesman Nigel Humphries. “All it will do is to downgrade careless driving to the same discredited level as 'speeding' penalties, futher alienating the public from both the police and road safety.”
Because careless driving is both subjective and all encompassing, the police will effectively be able to issue a fixed penalty to anyone, anytime in the most trivial of circumstances. The fact that most people — including the Magistrates' Association — don't trust the police with these powers only illustrates how much damage bad motoring law has done to our society.
Assurances from the DfT that “drivers can still opt to go to court” only confirm that the rail commuters at Marsham Street are completely divorced from the real world. The fixed penalty system is designed to blackmail drivers into accepting the fine and the points even if they are completely innocent. Going to court will simply result in the certainty of more points and a bigger fine as it is “your word against a police officer” — and in the unlikely event of being found not guilty you will soon not even be allowed to recover your costs. 2
“Most police will at least try to be sensible about the way they apply this,” continued Humphries. “But the potential for abuse is obvious, and in a target driven environment these decisions might well be taken out of the hands of the front line officers with instructions to issue minimum numbers of penalties.”