Drink-driving prosecutions down 60% since 2006

There has been a 60% drop in prosecutions for drink-driving and a 40% fall in dangerous driving cases since 2006, according to official figures.

But the total number of traffic cases going through the courts has marginally increased in the same period, driven by other offences.

The sheer scale of road-related offences continues to cause a logistical nightmare for the legal system — accounting for almost six out of 10 cases before the district courts.

It has prompted the head of the judiciary, Chief Justice Ms Susan Denham to call for “imaginative ways” to deal with such cases.

The Courts Service yesterday released details of an analysis into traffic offences over the last eight years. It shows:

- A 42% reduction in court orders relating to dangerous driving cases — from 6,721 in 2006 to 3,886 in 2013.

- A 60% fall in drink driving orders — from 27,836 to 11,329.

- A marginal 1% increase in the total number of traffic cases — from 198,412 (2005) to 200,786.

The Courts Service said that while the overall number of cases had increased slightly, the type of offences had changed greatly.

In relation to dangerous driving prosecutions, there had been a steady fall in cases over the years, with a 15% drop last year on 2012 figures and 28% down on 2010.

The Courts Service said 231 people were sent to prison in relation to these offences, 95 received suspended sentences and 32 were given community service. A further 474 were fined.

Regarding drink-driving prosecutions, numbers of cases have dropped more dramatically, falling by 39% over the last two years and 46% over the last three years.

The Courts Service said 4,000 fines were handed down for drink-driving in 2013 and almost 4,200 defendants were disqualified from driving. A further 165 people were imprisoned, 220 were given suspended sentences and 63 were ordered to undertake community service.

When she published the Courts Service 2013 annual report a fortnight ago, Ms Justice Denham said the courts were dealing with significant numbers of road traffic matters.

“Unlike other jurisdictions, non-payment of fines for traffic offences automatically results in a driver being summonsed to court,” said the Chief Justice. “Last year, 58% of all summary matters related to road traffic offences. This puts a great strain on the courts system. Perhaps we should look at imaginative ways of avoiding this scenario?”

The Courts Service has previously made suggestions to the authorities and discussions continue to be held with the departments of transport and justice.

Alternatives include taking fines off tax credits, adding it on to road tax or contracting private debt collectors.

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