The governments plans to allow police officers to issue fines on the spot to careless motorists is being questioned by one of the country’s leading experts on motoring law. Transport and motoring solicitor, Anton Balkitis from Rothera Dowson law firm at Nottingham raised questions and concerns about the scheme. Because careless motorists could be stopped and instantly receive an £80 – £100 fine and a three points minimum on their license.
The new strategy will make the roads safer says ministers and it will stop the many drivers that undertake, tailgate or cut up others and the court will not have to worry about handling those cases.
Anton feels the Government is attempting to force police to act as judge and jury to determine whether or not an individual was careless or not. The problem lies in the fact that carelessness is a subjective term and what one officer deems careless another may or may not, therefore making it best for matters such as these to be dealt with at the Magistrates’ Court.
He adds that the announcement also raise questions with regard to the numbers of frontline police. Since cuts have hit the police force in recent years will it really make a substantial impact on the safety of the roads if there are not a sufficient number of police enforcing the law effectively.
Whilst the Department for Transport has said that the new system will only target ‘reckless’ drivers, Anton is not inclined to agree:
“I think that argument is flawed. It is often difficult to ascertain whether something is inadvertent or not, especially when officers will be making on-the-spot decisions. The fact is that the number of fixed penalty fines will go up and many motorists who make innocent mistakes could find themselves penalised.”
Critics of the scheme have also suggested that having the ability to issue on-the-spot fines could result in police officers showing reluctance to enter into lengthy prosecutions for more serious cases – a point that Anton agrees with:
“There is a very real threat that we could be faced with this kind of situation, where fines are seen as the easy option.
“However, that is not to say the role of the courts in such matters will be completely redundant. Individuals should be given the opportunity to challenge any fine or points that they receive and any challenge would have to be dealt with via the normal legal channels.
“I would certainly urge anyone receiving a penalty notice to seek appropriate legal advice at the earliest opportunity.”