All areas should have a dedicated traffic court within the next 6 months, Justice Minister Damian Green said last week.
Subject to judicial agreement, dedicated traffic courts are being established across England and Wales. The move will mean low-level traffic offences, including speeding, traffic light, mobile phone and no insurance offences, can all be dealt with at one local Magistrates’ Court. The traffic courts have now been successfully established in 29 areas across the country and the Ministry of Justice idea is for dedicated ‘traffic courts’ to be established in all 42 Police-force areas.
In a traditional court sitting, an average of 35 cases may be listed in a day which could include traffic cases alongside other types of cases such as assault, shoplifting and domestic cases among others. In a dedicated traffic court, up to 100 cases can be dealt with in a single session which reduces unnecessary delays and allows local magistrates’ courts to focus on more serious offences. This is because many traffic offences are unchallenged by defendants and are usually much simpler and more straightforward to deal with.
Justice Minister Damian Green said:
“The safety of the general public is paramount, and we take road safety very seriously, which is why we have recently increased the sentence for causing serious injury by dangerous driving to 5 years imprisonment.
“However, low-level traffic offences such as speeding can take up to 6 months, from offence to completion, which is a huge drain on the smooth running of the criminal justice system, and takes focus away from more serious offences. This is simply unacceptable.
“We want all areas to have a dedicated traffic court, and we are on track to reach this target. Traffic courts from West Yorkshire to Sussex have shown how effective and efficient this process can be.”
The Ministry of Justice has cited Bradford as a successful pioneer of these types of cases. Bradford has the highest number of uninsured cars in any town in the UK and every year courts in the region deal with over 1,400 of these types of offences, which can take an average of 6 or 7 months to finalise. However, since the introduction of traffic courts, these cases now take an average of 4 months, and a higher proportion of cases are resolved at first hearing, meaning that courts have more time to deal with more serious cases. Together with prosecutions led by the Police, this means that prosecutors are able to focus their resources on more serious cases, providing more efficient justice for victims and witnesses.
The roll-out of traffic courts incorporates part of the Strategy and Action Plan, which was launched in June 2013 to help speed up the justice process through a range of measures including the digitalisation of the courts process, easier access for victims and witnesses to give evidence in court, and a more transparent and responsive criminal justice system. The aim for traffic offences is by April 2014 to have delivered a centralised traffic court in each Police area, maximum use of postal requisitions, maximum use of live links in courts and digital cases files for all traffic proceedings.