Author Topic: Closed-door courts fine hundreds of elderly motorists for minor offences  (Read 697 times)

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Offline Web Admin

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Closed-door courts fine hundreds of elderly motorists for minor offences

At least 500 cases involving people up to age of 99 were handled in past three months, with many prosecuted without their knowledge

By
Charles Hymas,
 HOME AFFAIRS EDITOR and
Michael Murphy
15 August 2023 • 4:49pm


A 99-year-old is among hundreds of people aged over 70 who have been fined by closed-door courts for minor motoring offences.

The pensioners, also including an 84-year-old fined more than £1,000 for an “honest mistake”, have faced convictions for minor DVLA charges in magistrates’ courts behind closed doors apparently without considering their mitigating circumstances.

One 78-year-old woman who was said by her children to be suffering from schizophrenia, dementia and Alzheimer’s, and was also living in care after breaking her ankle, faced a £150 fine and costs after failing to pay her car insurance.

A 95-year-old woman was prosecuted for not paying her car insurance beyond May 2020, early in the pandemic.

They were among at least 500 people aged over 70 prosecuted in the past three months for low-level vehicle tax and insurance offences through a process known as the single justice procedure (SJP).

The SJP was introduced to provide an “accessible, proportionate, effective and more efficient” way of handling less serious cases. However, it means cases are decided behind closed doors by a single magistrate without the defendant appearing in court or having any legal representation.


Motorists in their 90s are among those prosecuted in the past three months for low-level vehicle tax and insurance offences

Courts ignorant of circumstances
Campaigners say that many people are prosecuted without their knowledge because they did not receive the letter of notice, misunderstood its meaning or, if they did receive it, ignored it amidst their welter of post.

In more than half of the 500 cases involving motoring offences by over 70s, the defendants did not enter a plea, so at sentencing the courts were ignorant of their circumstances.

Sir Bob Neill, chairman of the Commons justice committee, said the Ministry of Justice urgently needed to review the SJP because of risks that magistrates were not considering mitigating evidence.

“A lot of these might be absolute liability offences where you don’t have to have a guilty state of mind but there can often be relevant matters in mitigation that would merit a discharge or absolute discharge. It is a concern that needs to be looked at so that they can be dealt with fairly,” he said.

The cases were uncovered by Tristan Kirk, courts correspondent with the Evening Standard, who said many DVLA prosecutions involved the elderly: “Pensioners can’t break the rules just because they’re old but there’s a risk they are having health difficulties, or can’t keep up with road rules. How do the authorities mitigate for this?”

Health issues not considered
The 78-year-old was fined £40, with £100 costs and a £16 victim surcharge for not paying a DVLA fixed penalty notice.

She had broken her ankle in March, was taken to hospital and was now in care but was still convicted by the magistrate despite her daughter and brother saying they were dealing with her affairs and were “both at breaking point”.

An 81-year-old disabled man explained he had failed to meet his insurance requirements for his specially-adapted car because he had not been notified. He was convicted and given a £300 court bill.

An 84-year-old was fined £1,876 for not paying his £93.34 road tax after he became the car’s registered keeper in March, believing it was permissible to leave it sitting off-road before insuring it in May. He apologised for his “honest mistake”.

Penelope Gibbs, director of Transform Justice, said: “The SJP is used for the majority of criminal offences but it creates injustice behind closed doors. Cases are held in secret and the public has no access either to the details of cases or to the outcomes.

“The prosecutors in these cases do not routinely assess the vulnerability of suspects before prosecuting. The miscarriages of justice uncovered in this investigation are undoubtedly just the tip of the iceberg.”

The MoJ has been contacted for comment.

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Offline The Bald Eagle

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"Cases are held in secret and the public has no access either to the details of cases or to the outcomes."

A simple phrase, but it is one that should chill you to the marrow in my humble opinion.

Justice being dispensed in secret is not justice at all.  <Swearyrant>  <bashy2> :bashy: <bashy2> :bashy: <bashy2> :bashy:
WE ARE WATCHING YOU

 


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