Not guilty of a traffic offence? You may still have to pay your own costs when new legislation comes into force later this month
NEW GOVERNMENT LEGISLATION due to come into force later this month will drastically reduce reclaimed costs for road users who successfully challenge speeding and other driving penalties in court.The Ministry of Justice plan to implement a new costs recovery system from October 2009. Under new rules any defendant acquitted of an offence in the Magistrates' Court will only be reimbursed at prevailing legal aid rates regardless of the level of costs they paid to their lawyers.The move has incensed many motoring and legal groups; Jeanette Miller of Association of Motor Offence Lawyers has launched a petition fighting the Ministry of Justice's plans.In her proposal, the President of the Association of Motor Offence Lawyers states:"This proposed rule change will undoubtedly mean that many defendants will accept wrongful prosecutions for commercial reasons. The Association of Motor Offence Lawyers (of which I am President) see thousands of convictions each year in the Magistrates' Court that should never occur due to misunderstanding of technical points concerning motoring legislation. If a defendant wishes to clear their name, they often have to take their case to the Crown Court. This can be an expensive process for which legal aid is unavailable which many will not embark upon with the knowledge that even when they win their appeal, they will lose the majority of the legal fees they spend in the process.The costs savings the government are seeing to make could be made by examining and improving other ineffective processes within the court system. It is not fair to pass yet another expense onto the public.In a cash-saving attempt to change the current arrangement, where innocent road users are refunded their costs, the government now plan to sting court goers - even if they're innocent. The government-inspired change to the current set-up - where drivers get costs refunded if they're innocent - is being implemented to save cash, in spite of fierce opposition from legal and motoring groups who were nominally 'consulted' before the new policy was drawn up.According to the Ministry of Justice, the age old principle of 'the loser pays' has been costing the government too much money. As a result the new rules make it clear that in future drivers will have to foot the bill for clearing their name. According to The Taxpayers Alliance, that equates to 400,000 people, or one in four of those who challenge a ticket.Now the Conservative party has joined the last ditch effort to derail the changes, and campaigners are looking for more signatories to a petition on the Number 10 website. We're off to go and sign the petition ourselves, and you can find out more by reading the press release below, that was issued by the Association of Motor Offence Lawyers today."
The new proposal has sparked a Downing Street petition, which has already attracted support from over 2,000 protestors, many of whom will have no doubt experienced the pangs of an unjust penalty charge. Indeed, the figures support the complaints that some driving penalties are undeserved. Currently around 400,000 motorists successfully win in court against motoring penalties. This figure equates to about 1 in 4 motorists who challenge their penalties.With a quarter of drivers being successful, something is surely amiss with the motoring penalty system. Yet instead of addressing these legitimate claims the government wishes to financially punish drivers who are acquitted. Those who suffer the most will of course be individuals of modest means, as they will be forced to accept unjust penalties because they cannot afford the legal bills. Meanwhile the government firmly cement arbitrary and unjust motoring penalties as a means to raise revenue.The fact that this proposal is a blatant example of legal discrimination is reinforced by the petition being backed by many within the legal world. 15 QCs, the Bar Council, the Criminal Bar Council, the Health and Safety Lawyers Association, and the London Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association have all signed the petition. Every driver should have a fair opportunity to clear their names if they feel they have been hit by an unjust penalty. This opportunity should not just be given to those who can afford to foot high legal bills.It is clear that drivers are the losers here. They will not only be at risk from unjust motoring penalties (as shown by the high number of motorists who successfully challenge these penalties in court), they are also placed in a position of serious disadvantage within the legal system."
We're going to sign the petition and we urge you to do the same right here!
Posted: 20/10/2009 at 15:55
Posted: 20/10/2009 at 19:26
another money making plan to recoup billions lost - we have to expect it unfortunately...
beats putting taxes up i suppose...
Posted: 21/10/2009 at 12:34
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