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Rob W

Clamping 'to cut court workload'

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Clamping 'to cut court workload'

 

Wheel clamping and vehicle impounding could be used as an alternative to minor motoring offences going to court, ministers have proposed. TV licence and council tax offences could also be fined by mail under plans to remove millions of offences from the magistrates court system.

 

The plans come in a White Paper also intended to make it easier to take time off work for magistrates. Lord Falconer said the aim was to make the courts work more effectively.

 

 

Offences in spotlight

Driving licence, MoT and road tax - 1.1 million offences, 2003

TV licence evasion - 120,352 sentenced in 2004/05

Non-domestic rates - 400,000 summonses in 2003/04

Council tax - 4 million summonses in 2003/04

 

"This paper sets out where we will be taking forward further reforms - many of them based directly on the ideas and suggestions from magistrates, district judges and court staff," he said. "This needs to be a platform from which we deliver simpler, speedier justice for our communities. Cases take too long to come on. The process is too complex. We need to help magistrates to deliver for the law-abiding citizen."

 

Costly disruption

 

The White Paper could lead to motorists finding their vehicles immobilised or impounded rather than being taken to court.

 

"The use of wheel clamping, vehicle impounding and intelligence-led enforcement, together with a national network of enforcement officers operating from the agency's 40 local offices, provides further options for dealing with less serious offences outside the magistrates' courts system," the paper said. Unveiling the plans, Lord Falconer said: "More wheel clamping would be a good idea."

 

The BBC and TV Licensing Authority may be given new powers to issue their own summonses for licence dodging. And the DVLA could also play a greater role in tackling minor motoring crimes, it said.

 

However, despite proposing changes to the way some road offences can be dealt with, ministers are not proposing to remove cases against motorists who have driven without insurance. This is because it is thought to be a serious offence with broader implications.

 

The paper says those who refuse to attend court create "costly disruption" and can now expect to be sentenced in their absence unless they have a good reason.

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