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Income adjusted speeding fines Yes or No

Here in the UK we issue the same speeding fines to everyone. But could there be a fairer way to make citizens speed abiding? We take look…

What is the current sting?

If you are caught speeding the current minimum penalty is a £100 fine and 3 penalty points on your licence. However, if your case is referred to the court that figure could go up to £1,000 and if it’s an offence on the motorway, you could be fined up to £2,500. New drivers who have passed their test within the last two years will have their licence revoked if they have more than 6 penalty points.

As for very minor breaches, speeders may be given the option of attending a speed awareness course. However this is very much up to the Police and you cannot make any demands for it. Attending a speed awareness course means you don’t have to pay a fine or have any penalty points, but you do have to pay for the actual course.

Case study: Income based fines

Most Scandinavian countries determine fines based on income. Since 1921, Finland has opted for “day-fines” for certain offences that require a non-custodial sentence. As for the amount you pay, it is determined by the offender’s daily disposable income, approximately one sixtieth of mean monthly income after tax. The law also takes into account dependents e.g. children or elderly relatives. The amount of day-fines doled out depends on how severe the crime is considered.

Earlier this year a Finnish businessman was caught speeding (65 miles in a 50 mile zone), over here he’d have likely received a couple of hundred pounds fine and 3 penalty points. But in Finland? He was issued a €54,000 fine. We’ll just give you a minute to let than sink in.

His offence was considered worth of eight “day-fines” of €6,750 each. This was a result of the businessman’s income being €6.5 million per year.

Would it work in Britain?

It’s all well and good in land-of-the-happy Scandinavia, but would it work back here in blighty? Well, we’ve actually tried a similar model in England and Wales before!

You may not remember, but in 1991 the Conservative government trialled a progressive model of punishment. As an example, a fight broke out in Yorkshire and under the new law the two people involved were fined £640 and £64, which was based on their income.

They soon abandoned the new law following media criticism. Lappi-Seppälä wrote in the Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice: “[This failure] can be attributed mainly to the U.K. government’s inability to defend a sound system against ill-founded public pressure and misplaced criticism.”

So – should we bring something similar back for speeding fines? We think there is certainly a case to be made. It has been studied and shown before that richer people often drive more recklessly than those with lower incomes. But it also seems fairer – the fine would impact everybody in the same way, as it is a percentage of your income rather than a fixed amount. 


published: 18/09/2015 09:02:58

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