New dedicated courts for minor traffic offences

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Minor traffic offences will be dealt with by new dedicated courts under plans announced by the Government today.

Setting up special traffic courts will free up magistrates to deal with more serious cases, according to the Ministry of Justice.

About half a million traffic cases are heard by magistrates each year, often taking longer to process than major offences, the department said.

The announcement follows a trial of dedicated traffic courts in Essex, Hampshire, Kent, Lincolnshire, London, Nottinghamshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and West Yorkshire.

Under plans, every police force area will have a dedicated traffic court by April 2014, using specialist prosecutors to deal with up to a 160 cases a day.

The new courts will only hear cases where there is a guilty plea. Offences dealt with could include speeding and red-light jumping.

Justice Minister Damian Green said: "Enforcing traffic laws is hugely important for road safety and saving lives.

"However, these cases take nearly six months on average from offence to completion, despite the fact that over 90% of cases result in a guilty plea or are proved in absence - this is simply unacceptable.

"The justice system must respond more quickly and effectively to the needs of victims, witnesses and local communities, and these dedicated courts will enable magistrates to better organise their work and drive greater efficiency."

Chief Constable Chris Eyre, the Association of Chief Police Officers’ lead on criminal justice, said: "We have implemented this new procedure to traffic cases with great success in nine police forces, radically simplifying and speeding up the process.”

Neil Greig, the Institute of Advanced Motorists’ director of policy and research said: "We welcome the focus on improving detection rates and investigation time for serious offences.”

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Steve Farrell

By Steve Farrell