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Government’s motoring law proposals fundamentally flawed

MOTORING LAWYER Oliver Gardner is warning that new proposals by the transport secretary mark a very dangerous development for the role of the courts in protecting citizens’ rights.

Minister Philip Hammond’s proposed changes will greatly minimise the role of the judiciary in motoring law cases and hand additional powers to the police to make key decisions.

Among the changes that are slated to come in next year will be the police’s ability to issue new fixed penalty notices for careless driving, a power that currently resides with the courts.

Gardner, who heads up his own specialist motoring law practice, Howards & Henry’s Solicitors, comments: “The proposals effectively set-up the police as judge and jury. It is a worrying development.”

Gardner explains further: “For the state to effectively by-pass the courts and give those powers to the police cuts out a key safeguard for all citizens. It is a principle that needs to be protected, but it is an issue that is largely being overlooked in the debate. We of course need to penalise dangerous driving and protect the public, but these proposals present great dangers.”

“A key concern is that the police will not have the discretionary power, training or uniformity of approach to safeguard the protection offered by the courts.”

“Consider the real threats to livelihoods for example – a driving licence could be at risk for the accumulation of minor offences over a three year period, if little discretion is applied. The current system makes rulings that consider the interests of all parties. The new proposals do not.”

Gardner also points out that some current motoring laws that are set to be changed are perfectly adequate, including those relating to driving while under the influence of drugs and testing for alcohol. “Perhaps there is political capital in revising such laws, but legally there is no need,” says Gardner.

“Overall these changes could be seen as being about saving court costs and raising revenues and not just a concern for safety. If it is, it will undermine the role of the police if enacted in a way that seems unfair – and that is a real possibility. It is time for the transport secretary to reconsider his proposals.”