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Legal Overview: It's the same crime, but it's certainly not the same fine.

Article by: Legal Expert: Giles Ward, Senior Partner, Milners Solicitors

The 24th April 2017 sees a new and much harsher penalty system come in to force for those of us caught speeding after this date. Sentencing guidelines have been reviewed and with the review comes an attractive deterrent; you could now be fined up to 150% of your weekly income.

At present an offender will fall into one of three ‘bands’; Band A, Band B or Band C. The latter is the harshest of the three penalties. Currently, Band C offenders start from a sum equal to 100% of their weekly income – from April 2017 we will see this increase to 150% which can be a significant increase based solely upon your salary.

From 1st March 2017, we saw the penalty for mobile phone usage whilst driving double from a £100 fine and three points to a £200 fine and six points. It is thought that the harsher reprimands introduced for mobile phone usage and speeding is indicative of how the authorities intend to crack down on repeat and prolific offenders who have not been deterred this far.

Speeding penalties and fines are not calculated quite as simply as other motoring offences. The current maximum fine for breaking the speed limit is £1,000, or £2,500 if caught on a motorway. The Sentencing Council has confirmed that the £2,500 cap will remain the same, however, the highest level of fines will be much more prevalent and more offenders than ever before will be damned to the highest level fines.

An offender’s speeding fine can be increased or decreased depending on the circumstances surrounding the offence. A ‘mitigating factor’ such as an emergency that caused the offender to drive in excess of the speed limit may see a reduction in the fine. An increase in speeding fine would come should an ‘aggravating factor’ be present in the circumstances surrounding the offence. The presence of an aggravating factor could see the offenders’ fine increase from 150% to 175% of the offenders’ weekly income. Aggravating factors include speeding with a trailer, carrying a heavy load or being a persistent offender.

It goes without saying that everyone should be aware of the forthcoming changes and how the new sentencing guidelines could affect you, however, those needing to pay even closer attention to the change in legislation is the prudent employer who employs drivers and /or runs a fleet of vehicles.

With the penalties increasing and modern technology forever becoming more advanced, the prudent employer / business owner / Director / Chief Executive / company owner (no matter how big or small the company is) should see the increase in penalty as the propeller into tightening up their own systems and removing any room for human error. Products like speed restrictors and tracking systems are among the modern day ways to tighten up on fleet speeds and while insurance companies look to tracking and telematics to asses and control young drivers maybe now is the right time for fleets to take the same lead.

If your company received a Notice of Intended Prosecution and you had no way of identifying who was driving which car, at what time, on which day, what would you do? Whose wages would be subject to the new sentencing guidelines? Could you say you had done all you possibly could to ensure your staff were held accountable for their actions during every minute of every hour of every day? If you employ drivers, make sure they are accountable for their own actions, ultimately someone has to be, and it could by default be you.  

Comment by Giles Ward, Senior Partner of Milners Solicitors, Leeds. A renowned and leading litigation lawyer. 

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