Following a review of the current sentencing guidelines, the Sentencing Council has announced that motorists convicted of serious speeding offences will face harsher financial penalties from 24th April 2017.
There had been commentary and criticism that the current sentencing guidelines “did not properly take into account the increase in potential harm that can result as speed above the speed limit increases”. As a result, the Sentencing Council has made its intention clear.
The new guidelines implement three bands of financial penalty (opposed to two under the previous regime) with each band correlating to the seriousness of the offence. However, the maximum fine to be imposed for speeding offences remains at £1,000, unless committed on a motorway upon which the maximum is £2,500.
The sentencing guidelines will continue to categorise the severity of the offence based on the speed recorded over and above the prescribed limit. Each category has a differing punitive measure consisting of either penalty points or a driving disqualification, together with a financial penalty. The sanction can range from the endorsement of 3 penalty points on a motorists’ driving licence to a driving disqualification for the specific offence, which the guidelines suggest is up to a period of 56 days. However, the Court is able to impose a driving disqualification for a greater period of time, or can consider a driver’s whole record when determining whether to impose points that would then render a motorist liable to disqualification under the ‘totting-up’ provisions.
The amended regime introduces a ‘Band C’ fine for the most serious offences. They are ordinarily those occasions a motorist is travelling at 21 mph or more over and above the prescribed limit. A ‘Band C’ fine is means tested and calculated as a proportion of an offender’s relevant weekly income, namely between 125 – 175% of their net take home pay up to the relevant statutory maximum for the offence. In addition, the guidelines for an offender falling into such a category suggests a disqualification up to 56 days or 6 penalty points endorsed on their driving licence. Individuals convicted of such an offence will continue to be liable to pay for the costs of the prosecution and a ‘victim surcharge’ (a percentage of the fine imposed).
However, it should be noted that these are guidelines, and there are circumstances upon which the Court can be persuaded to exercise their discretion to operate outside of the guidelines and make a transition between categories and the resulting sanctions imposed. There are a number of factors taken into consideration by the Court when assessing whether or not exercise such discretion such as the circumstances of the offence and the individual concerned, both of which will be either deemed to aggravate or mitigate a particular offence.
Indeed, the Traffic Lawyers Team recently represented an individual and persuaded the Court to operate outside of the guidelines by making a downward transition between categories and imposing 5 penalty points opposed to 6. As a result, the motorist concerned avoided the perils of accumulating 12 penalty points within a three year period, which would have rendered him liable to a minimum driving disqualification for a period of 6 months.
The changes outlined above will be effective on the roads as of 24th April 2017. If you wish to discuss anything with our Traffic Lawyers team, then please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.