Traffic courts up and running in 28 areas

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All areas should have a dedicated traffic court within the next six months, Justice Minister Damian Green said today as he visited a magistrates’ court in Huddersfield.

Subject to judicial agreement to list all low-level traffic cases together, dedicated traffic courts are being established across the country. The move will mean low-level traffic offences - such as speeding, traffic-light and document offences - can all be dealt with at one local magistrates’ court. In a dedicated traffic court, up to 100 cases can be dealt with in a single session which reduces unnecessary delays and allows local magistrates’ courts to focus on more serious offences

These courts have now been successfully established in 28 areas across the country. The Government vision is for dedicated ‘traffic courts’ in all 42 police-force areas.

Justice Minister Damian Green said:

“The safety of the general public is paramount, and we take road safety very seriously, which is why we have recently increased the sentence for causing serious injury by dangerous driving to five years imprisonment.

“However, low-level traffic offences such as speeding can take up to six months from offence to completion which is a huge drain on the smooth running of the criminal justice system, and takes focus away from more serious offences. This is simply unacceptable.

“We want all areas to have a dedicated traffic court, and we are on track to reach this target. Traffic courts from West Yorkshire to Sussex have shown how effective and efficient this process can be.”

In a traditional court sitting an average of 35 cases may be listed in a day, which could include traffic cases alongside other types of cases such as assault, shop-lifting, and domestic cases among others. A dedicated traffic court, reduces unnecessary delays and allows local magistrates’ courts to focus on more serious offences which really make a difference to communities, victims and witnesses.

In West Yorkshire, Bradford has the highest number of uninsured cars in any town in the UK. Every year courts in the region deal with over 1400 of these types of offences, which could take an average of six or seven months. However since the introduction of traffic courts, together with the use of a civilian document checker, these cases now take an average of three months, and a higher proportion of cases are resolved at first hearing, meaning that courts have more time to deal with more serious cases. Together with police-led prosecutions, this means that prosecutors are able to focus their resources on more serious cases, providing efficient justice for victims and witnesses.

Criminal justice agencies are being encouraged to work together so that traffic courts are rolled out across all areas by April 2014.

The roll-out of traffic courts feeds into the Strategy and Action Plan, which was launched in June this year to help speed up the justice process through a range of actions including, the digitalisation of the courts process, easier access for victims and witnesses to give evidence in court, and a more transparent and responsive criminal justice system.