Clause 16 - Penalty points

Part of Road Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:30 pm on 25th January 2005.

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Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch 4:30 pm, 25th January 2005

I am grateful to the Minister for that. When he talks about the guidance, could he also discuss mitigating circumstances, which I mentioned earlier? The standard notices that go out with the penalty points will say that if there are mitigating circumstances the matter can be taken to the magistrates courts. As we know, the magistrates have no right to reduce the number of penalty points from the standard three imposed under the existing law or below the minimum under the new law. When the Minister produces guidance will he ensure that it extends to those pro forma letters? People who receive fixed penalty tickets will then realise that they cannot obtain any mitigation in respect of the penalty points by having the matter referred to the magistrates court. That is not clear at present.

The other problem is that the fine associated with fixed penalty points is fixed. Although magistrates cannot change the number of penalty points imposed, they have some discretion over the fine, and in making their decision they will want to take into account the offender's means, which will have to be disclosed in any claim for mitigation. That will open up a new can of worms for the offender who wants mitigating circumstances taken into account but does not want to raise the spectre of a £60 fine becoming much higher because he happens to be of substantial means. I hope that the Minister accepts that there is an inconsistency which should be addressed in any guidance. This question arises from a constituency case which I mentioned before. I have had a substantive but much delayed reply about it from the Court Service, which has identified that there is a problem with the present law.