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"POWER OF POLICE TO STOP VEHICLE
In Part 1 of Schedule 2 to the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 (c. 53) (prosecution and punishment of offences: offences under the Traffic Acts), in the entry relating to section 163 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (c. 52) (failing to stop mechanically propelled vehicle or cycle when required to do so), in column (4) (punishment), for "Level 3 on the standard scale." substitute
"(a) Level 5 on the standard scale if committed by a person driving a mechanically propelled vehicle.
(b) Level 3 on the standard scale if committed by a person riding a cycle."
and, in column (2) (general nature of offence), for "motor" substitute "mechanically propelled"."
The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 26 I shall speak to Amendment No. 27 at the same time. Both amendments increase the penalties available for existing offences. Amendment No. 26 raises the penalty for failing to stop for a constable under Section 163 of the Road Traffic Act from a fine of £1,000 to one of £5,000. This was not contained in the consultation on bad driving offences, but was mentioned by a small number of respondents who thought the penalty for failing to stop for a police officer should be increased to recognise the serious risks to other road users of trying to evade the police or escape detection of more serious offences, such as driving under the influence of drink or drugs. The Government have considered this, and agree that amending the penalty would more accurately reflect the offending behaviour.
Existing bad driving offences under the Road Traffic Act 1988 apply to public but not private places, and to motorised vehicles. This means that, at times, instances of bad driving may fall outside the scope of the Act because either the place or the vehicle is not covered. In some circumstances the behaviour will fall outside the Road Traffic Act but be covered by other
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offences. Manslaughter, for example, may be committed anywhere, as can offences such as assault. Where an example of bad driving is not serious enough to warrant a charge of manslaughter, or where death and injury is caused and the offence takes place on private property or in a non-motorised vehicle, the only offence that may apply is that of furious driving under Section 35 of the 1861 Act, to whose correct date the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, drew my attention.
This is not strictly a road traffic offence. It is indictable only, and carries a maximum penalty of two years. Also, it appliesI note the presence of the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellieonly to England and Wales.
It may be helpful if I set out which roads would be covered by the offence of furious driving. Privately-owned roads open to the public to drive on, as may be found in some private developments, are public roads for the purpose of driving offences. What is not covered is truly private propertyfor example, race tracks. The consultation on bad driving offences argued that this offence should be replaced, as it is outdated. This was generally supported, but some responses emphasised that care should be taken as the offence is still used.
In addition, the consultation did not demonstrate concern that the present law is lacking. There is no evidence that there are current instances of bad driving that take place on private land or in non-motorised vehicles that are not adequately dealt with. The response from Justice noted that there are several factors that make it difficult to treat driving on public roads and on private property the same; for example, there is no requirement to have a licence to drive on private property, and there is a much lower risk of harm to others. Simply to apply existing driving licences for all vehicles to all types of property would not be justified.
The Government have therefore concluded that the offence of furious driving should be left in place, but there are a few simple measures that would make it more effective in practice. As such, our Amendment No. 27 will clarify that a court has a discretion to disqualify for the offence. The clause also makes the offence endorsable where it involves a mechanically propelled vehicle. That means that it will not be possible to endorse a licence where the person has been found guilty of furious driving of a horse and cart. I offer that to noble Lords as an indication of how carefully the Government have thought through the amendment.
Finally, Amendment No. 28 transposes Clause 23 on the offence of keeping a vehicle that does not meet insurance requirements to before Clause 18, so that it will be grouped alongside the two new criminal offences in government Amendments Nos. 19 and 20, which we discussed before dinner.
The Earl of Mar and Kellie: My Lords, I am a bit disappointed that furious driving does not apply to
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Scotland, not only because constitutionally it is wrong as the Road Traffic Acts are reserved to preserve equal treatment across Great Britain, if not to extend it to Northern Ireland. There is the possibility of constitutional anoraks getting upset, but I am attracted by the offence, because it is what I have been looking for to deal with people who drive quad bikes and off-road motorcycles on public footpaths, causing people to have to jump out of the way. I have been struggling to find an offence that those drivers are committing when they are clearly committing a breach of common sense. I am almost about to hear myself ask whether we have to table an amendment to extend the offence to Scotland.
Viscount Simon: My Lords, in the light of my noble friend's research, did he know that what we now know as roads were originally described as those accessible to a shepherd, three sheep and a sheepdog?
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Simon has taken us slightly further back in history than even 1861. I am sorry about the difficulty of the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, with regard to Scotland. There probably was an Earl of Mar and Kellie in this House in 1861, but there certainly was not a Lord Davies of Oldham, so he cannot accuse me of being neglectful on that occasion. We are actually reflecting the use of land in the two countries, with very different legal systems applying to them.
So far as I know, furious driving is not so much a road traffic offence as one that falls under the criminal law in England and Wales. The noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, will have to do his research, because it may well fall under the criminal law in Scotland or something similar to it. In that sense the matter is devolved, which is why we are not talking about Scotland in relation to furious driving.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, that I understand. As I indicated, the law has regard not to road traffic, but to other aspects of the criminal law. Therefore, the Scottish Parliament can take decisions in that area and probably already has done so. I confess that I have not come briefed fully on the Scottish position.
On the more general issues, I hear what the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, says about furious driving being an interesting concept. It is a dated and restricted
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concept. I do not have information regarding the latest successful prosecution under the measure. I believe that such a prosecution is an extreme rarity but the measure is on the statute book, and that is why I refer to it.
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