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Magistrates set to get more powers

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The Government has announced new plans to increase the maximum fines for a variety of offences dealt with in the Magistrates Courts.

The new plans will allow the Courts to levy much larger fines on offenders as a punitive measure. The main targets of the new fines will be TV licence evaders and motorists, for example speeding on the motorway, who could face a fourfold increase in fines.

Drivers who break the 70mph limit on the motorways could be hit with a fine as high as £10,000. The increase in sentence powers are designed to give the lower Courts more power to punish by the way of people's wallets and the theory is that it could stop cases being sent up to the Crown Court at an initial stage.

It is of course interesting to note that the targets of the new increased fines include the ever pressed motorist who is already more than familiar with paying for any breach of the current motoring laws.

The motorist has always been seen as having sufficiently deep pockets and a high threshold for complaint.

The new fines could have been targeted at burglars, anti-social offenders or those convicted of assaults - although the fine recovery figures would plummet on the whole as these categories of offenders often start a case with empty pockets and their legal support funded by the state.

The effective removal of legal aid for driving offences means that many motorists facing prosecution have no option but to fund themselves. It would now appear that even at the end of the Court case their wallets should remain open.

By Martyn Walsh, Associate solicitor in the driving offences team