For the first time since my post of October 13th last year I sat recently in a court where the whole sitting was taken up by summonses on s.172 offences. Of 50 cases listed only one defendant chose to appear. He was charged also with use of a vehicle without insurance. He was questioned as to the reasons for his pleas of not guilty to ensure that slim as they might be he had cogent and arguable bases for those pleas before a trial date was fixed. One by one, what initially seemed as if it might be arguments in mitigation being offered to us, his lies built up to such a level that full admissions were finally made on both charges. These offences led to his being a totter and being disqualified from driving for six months in addition to fines based upon his low income.
Many of the remaining 49 cases were such that the defendants had not responded at all in writing to the summonses. Generally speaking fines would be fixed for non responsive offenders based upon the average income levels in the locality which can mean fines as high as Â£600 in some parts of the country in addition to costs and surcharge. The mandatory six penalty points would no doubt lead to a totting driving ban for many who chose to ignore the summons.
One would have thought that with the disgrace of lying former cabinet minister Chris Huhne who was brought down by a s.172 offence the message might be getting through that the risks of being caught out are real and very costly. No doubt there are many apologists who reject the imprisonment of such offenders. There must be an unequivocal last resort of custody as the punishment for those who through their own contempt for the law whether by subverting s.172 or wilful refusal to pay council tax or court imposed fines undermine the very foundations of society.