Hefty financial penalties imposed for criminal motoring offences committed by high profile individuals are becoming regular news topics. We are now seeing what appear to be extraordinary fines being imposed on those affluent ‘celebrities’ to reflect their impressive salaries. Since 12 March 2015, certain offences tried in the Magistrates’ Court, like many motoring offences, have seen financial penalties imposed in excess of the previous cap of £5,000 (level 5 fines). The change in the rules meant fines falling into this category could technically be unlimited!
How motoring offence fines are calculated
Fines in the Magistrates’ Court are calculated on two levels. The first is to determine the level of fine. The second is determine the ‘band’ of fine. Fines of this type are means assessed and the band determines the level of your means that are taken into account. It may be, for example, that the court will consider a fine based on 150% of your take home pay. Fines to be assessed within levels 1 – 4 mean that the fine has to be capped at a certain amount, irrelevant of what your weekly income is. Level 5, however, is where the shackles come off and fines are imposed purely by considering your ‘relevant weekly income’ (likely to be your take home pay). This is why we see high profile cases in recent times where those in more fortunate financial positions are having to fork out tens of thousands to reflect their means.
High profile cases such as Ant McPartlin and Yaya Toure have seen hefty fines imposed for drink driving related offences. As stated, the fine is due to both the level of categorisation and the band used to calculate. These offences see fines calculated using the band C 150% calculation and they are not capped since 12 March 2015 given that they are level 5 fines.
This week’s case of Southampton footballer, Mario Lemina, has hit the headlines for similar reasons.
He was convicted of three separate allegations of failing to furnish driver details, an offence made out when you don’t return the letter sent by the police asking you to confirm who was driving at the time of an alleged moving traffic offence. Each separate allegation of failing to furnish carries 6 penalty points and a level 3 fine. Fines for this offence are usually assessed as band C as a starting point. Reports show that Lemina’s weekly take home pay was £48,000 and the usual 33% discount was applied to take it down to £32,000 fine per offence – hence the £96,000. Those more astute amongst you may have notice something wrong here. Whilst many may not have sympathy and suggest it is a fair and proportionate penalty given Lemina’s means, there is one issue that has to be considered for this to be put into context. This is a level 3 offence. This is an offence where the fine has to be capped at £1,000 per offence. Those principals have not been applied here leading to one glaring conclusion – the fine, ‘fair’ or not, is unlawful.
It seems that the maximum fine that could have been imposed here would be £3,000 (even lower - £2,100 once the 33% credit is applied) and Lemina is quite within his rights to appeal what is clearly an unlawful decision by the court. Lemina’s legal representative is reported to have described him as ‘disorganised’ in not dealing with the police requests for details relating to the identity of the driver. That disorganisation has proven to be costly and more costly than it should have been if he accepts the decision and declines to appeal.