East Antrim Ulster Unionist MLA Roy Beggs has expressed amazement that the Department of Justice is not able to provide estimates of the cost of administrating a road traffic prosecution in a Magistrate Court.
Mr Beggs said;
“I asked The Minister of Justice what is the average cost of administering a road traffic prosecution in the Magistrate Court when the defendant has pleaded guilty; and to detail the breakdown of such costs?
“The Department detailed that 10,195 defendants pleaded guilty in NI to at least one road traffic offence last year but went on to advise that ‘it is not possible to calculate an average cost for a particular type of case without entailing a disproportionate cost.’
“A recent Criminal Justice Inspectorate Report stated that ‘The administration of road traffic enforcement could be improved. When traffic cases had to go to court, utilising a centralised Traffic Court system with a more administrative approach, similar to the civilian/Police-Led Prosecutions (PLPs) teams in England, may provide a more efficient and cost effective way to deal with the enforcement of road traffic cases.”
“It is concerning that we in Northern Ireland don’t seem to know how much it costs to have a road traffic prosecution heard in a Magistrate Court . In a recent CJINI report on road traffic legislation, it talked about introducing a centralised Traffic Court system which would be more efficient and cost effective, but it appears that we don’t know to what extent the financial savings could potentially be. It makes you wonder how we know a different system could save us money if the Justice Department don’t know the current costs. Certainly Traffic courts have been introduced in England and have proved an efficient manner of dealing with traffic cases where there is an admission of guilt.
“Cases where the defendant pleads guilty will result in savings to the Court service and to the Police. Given the pressures on our Policing and Justice budget I would have thought that there would be greater interest in such a cost saving innovation which do not jeopardise Justice”