UK

Online motoring offences plea service launched

A smartphone Image copyright PA

A service allowing motorists in England and Wales charged with summary motoring offences to enter a plea online is being launched by the government.

People charged with a minor motoring offence such as speeding or not having insurance will be able to enter a plea 24-hours-a-day via a secure website.

The gradual roll-out of the "Make A Plea" scheme from March follows a successful pilot in Greater Manchester.

The government says it saves time and money for the criminal justice system.

Last year saw 4.5m minor motoring offences processed through the courts.

The government is also considering whether the scheme could be used for other low-level offences.


Analysis

By Clive Coleman, BBC legal affairs correspondent

Just as the horse-drawn cart gave way to the motor car, so justice is moving online. Fast.

Last week a report recommended an online digital court for small civil claims - that is, disputes between individuals or organisations with a value of less than £25,000 - complete with online judges.

And £160m is being spent to digitise criminal courts themselves so that lawyers, judges and other professionals can all access the same relevant information on laptops and tablet devices.

Now you can plead to motoring offences triable in the magistrates court on your smartphone. It's really nothing more than a near instantaneous and paperless version of pleading by post.

What it offers is a big saving in administrative court costs and huge benefits for the defendant who can plead at his or her convenience, and has the knowledge that the plea has been entered on the secure website.

It may not quite have the full majesty of the law, but I'm sure we will soon look back at postal pleas as something rather quaint that went on in a distant, pre-digital past.


The service is an alternative to a postal plea or attending court and has been used by more than 1,200 people during the Manchester trial.

It will allow defendants to see their case details, view evidence and make their plea remotely.

Justice Minister Shailesh Vara said that if the new system is successful then it could be adapted for other low-level offences involving a standard guilty plea.

"This is bringing the courts and tribunal service to the modern technological era," he added.

"This is something that will mean there is going to be less paper around, less use of people, less use of office space, and a whole variety of things that will actually save real money, and that money can be used elsewhere."

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