The debate over whether to prosecute or educate those who commit driving offences is a complex one, Gotelee’s Hugh Rowland says.
Ipswich lawyer Mr Rowland commented ahead of a speech later (7th Oct) by Edmund King, President of the AA, who will urge police chiefs that education rather than “heavy-handed” prosecution is the best way of dealing with the issue.
Speaking to the Mark Murphy show on BBC Radio Suffolk, Mr Rowland argued that although awareness courses are a proven method of altering behaviour, penalty points for driving offences and the risk of disqualification are equally effective deterrents.
Mr Rowland, a criminal lawyer and partner at Gotelee, which has offices in Ipswich, Hadleigh and Felixstowe, said “There is a move to take criminal justice out of the courts and this could be seen as part of that approach. The more cases that are dealt with out of court, the less the cost of the administration of justice to the Ministry of Justice.
The courses offered can be useful when a case does go to court. It’s powerful mitigation to be able to say that a defendant has undertaken a course of training involving, for instance, one-to-one supervision and assessment.
In the end, though, many accidents take pace as a result of a sequence of minor contributory factors. It is difficult to combat momentary inattention by any amount of training. It is also difficult to assess the lasting effect of training as against the risk of a six month ban as a totter.”
The ‘totting up’ of 12 points on a UK driver’s licence can result in a six-month ban, while courts can punish excess speeding offences with instant disqualifications.
Mr Rowland said that while driving awareness courses offer the opportunity to avoid a criminal conviction, they still have to be paid for.
“The AA is one of the course providers that has moved into the market, which is potentially a profitable area,” he added.
Mr Rowland said feedback suggests the courses are informative and have an impact on driver behaviour – but so too do penalty points and the risk of disqualification.
AA President Edmund King used his keynote speech to police chiefs at the TISPOL European Road Safety Conference in Manchester yesterday to call for first-time driving offenders to be educated instead of criminalised.
He will say that the UK is unique in that police offer a number of awareness courses to those who have committed driving offences or have been involved in an ‘at fault’ collision. The courses are offered nationwide as part of the National Driver Offender Retraining Scheme (NDORS).
For advice on driving offences contact Hugh on01473 298140. Gotelee is a leading Suffolk firm of solicitors offering a range of legal services. Get in touch by visiting www.gotelee.co.uk or calling 01473 211121