HC Deb 23 June 2003 vol 407 cc634-5W
Janet Anderson

To ask the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs what guidelines he has issued to magistrates courts on invoking a fixed penalty where the offender would be liable to lose his driving licence as a result. [118042]

Paul Goggins

I have been asked to reply.

The fixed penalty system allows a driver to discharge, without a court appearance, any liability he may have to conviction of certain offences, He does so by paying by the charge specified in a fixed penalty notice issued by a police constable and, for an endorsable offence, by submitting his licence for endorsement with the prescribed number of penalty points. The constable remains able to report for prosecution instead of issuing a fixed penalty notice, if in any particular case he considers that more appropriate, and the driver remains free to opt for prosecution rather than pay the fixed penalty.

The provisions of the system are set out in Part III of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988, as amended by the Road Traffic Act 1991. Under section 54(3)(b) of the Act, a police constable can offer a fixed penalty only when he is satisfied that the driver, if prosecuted and convicted, would not be liable to disqualification for exceeding the permitted number of penalty points. Should a fixed penalty notice be mistakenly issued in contravention of section 54(3)(b), section 61 of the Act applies. This provides that when the driver delivers his licence for penalty point endorsement and it appears to the fixed penalty clerk that conviction would involve liability to disqualification, the licence must not be endorsed. Instead, it will be returned to the police with a view to the driver's prosecution.

The courts are involved only where a driver is prosecuted. When cases come to court and there is a conviction, the magistrates will decide the appropriate penalty in each case in accordance with its particular circumstances. Guidelines from the Magistrates Association suggest starting points for sentences, which can be increased or decreased depending on the means of the offender and on any mitigating or aggravating features in individual cases.