Using a mobile phone whilst driving:- you`re either a regular offender, detected or otherwise, or else you wish there were more police cars on the roads to remove the complacency with which such people pay no regard to others on the road. I have to admit some prejudice. The child of good friends was killed in a crash involving a mobile phone user.
The current penalty is £60 fine on a Fixed Penalty Notice and three penalty points. In 2009, 126,000 FPNs were issued for this offence, a rise of 8% on 2008. In 2010/2011 there were 171,000. As all J.P.s and motoring lawyers know there are few successful defences when not guilty pleas bring this offence before the magistrates` court. Considering the resultant financial penalties for those convicted in such circumstances it takes a brave or perhaps arrogant individual to make a choice of not guilty notwithstanding deep pockets if represented. With so many very informative web sites offering basic advice on what constitutes “use” with five minutes of research I am forever surprised at the defences presented in such cases.
For a working defendant convicted in a court of using a mobile phone whilst driving the cost of a failed defence can be considerable. Fines are based on income. One could say that is good old Marxism in action; each according to his means. Recently three such offenders in front of my bench had to part with over £400 each in fines and costs after being found guilty after trial and indeed one individual was over £600 poorer as a result of offering an untenable defence. He expressed surprise that he wasn`t fined the FPN level of £60. Their three penalty points were of course an irritation for each of them.
In view of the apparent continuing increase in the illegal use of mobiles it seems unlikely that the proposed increase in FPN to £80 or even £100 will have much deterrent effect. The only sure way to reduce this offence is to increase the penalty points to five.