The sentencing guidelines for serious speeding offences in England and Wales have been changed. We take a look at what they mean.
You may have seen in the news recently that the guidelines that magistrates in England and Wales use to make their decisions when sentencing for speeding offences have been changed.
The changes were announced on January 24 but won’t be put into effect until April 24. They do not affect how speeding offences are dealt with in Scotland or Northern Ireland, but obviously apply to drivers from those countries caught speeding in England or Wales.
So, what’s new?
Under the changes, magistrates are now being directed to penalise the most serious speeding offenders with a Band C fine.
This means that the starting point for such fines will be 150 per cent of the offender’s weekly income.
What counts as a “serious offence”?
This depends on the speed limit. For a speeding driver to be liable for a Band C fine, they must be travelling excessively faster than the posted speed limit. In a 20mph zone, this would mean driving at 41mph or more. In a 70mph zone, you would need to be travelling at 101mph or above.
How much will I have to pay if I’m caught?
This really depends on how much you earn. If you earn around £25,000 per year, the starting point for a Band C fine will be about £720.
Obviously, this will increase or decrease based on how large or small your salary is. However, magistrates are recommended to cap fines at a maximum of £1,000, or £2,500 if the driver was caught speeding on the motorway.
Because of this, those who earn more than around £47,000 per year won’t ever have to pay more than the £1,000 limit (unless they are snapped on the motorway).
This means that lower earners could be seen to be disproportionately punished when compared with their wealthier peers.
Is there any variation in the scope for a magistrate to fine me?
Yes. Magistrates can increase or decrease a fine based on aggravating or mitigating factors. Aggravating factors could include an offender’s previous convictions, or whether they were caught speeding while on bail.
Mitigating factors such as a clean criminal record, or the establishment of a genuine emergency could also be taken into account.
This means a Band C fine could potentially be increased from 150 per cent to 175 per cent of an offender’s weekly pay cheque, or decreased to 125 per cent.
Magistrates can still elect to reduce a fine, however, if there are any factors that would indicate a reduction. This could include the defendant assisting the prosecution or the investigator, or entering a guilty plea.
Are there any other punishments that might be issued?
Absolutely. While you might only be fined a maximum of £2,500 for speeding in monetary terms, magistrates can still choose to discipline you in other ways, such as disqualifying you from driving for an extended period (or permanently) or adding points to your licence – which could lead to a disqualification in itself.
At the end of the day, however, these laws are in place for good reason – to keep motorists, passengers and pedestrians safe.
The best way to avoid a fine – and reduce the chances of putting your own life and the lives of other at risk – is to stay within the posted speed limit.