Elderly pensioners are facing baffling convictions for minor DVLA charges as part of “horrible” court cases that rarely consider mitigating circumstances.
Every week, a myriad of these cases are decided as part of Single Justice Procedures (SJP) where one magistrate decides the outcome of the case without a court hearing.
It is claimed SJP cases are leading to unfair outcomes as they are designed to be dealt with rapidly and ultimately don’t consider mitigating factors.
In a recent case, a 78-year-old woman was convicted despite being severely ill and issuing a guilty plea. She had failed to pay her car insurance and was prosecuted after not paying a DVLA fixed penalty notice including a £40 fine, £100 costs and a £16 victim surcharge.
But her daughter wrote to the court that her mum, who was in care, has schizophrenia, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and broke her ankle in March. The magistrate still convicted her and was given a £40 fine, £100 in costs and a £16 victim surcharge, Evening Standard court reporter Tristan Kirk shared on Twitter.
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Mr Kirk said: “The question is, can that magistrate genuinely have looked at the guilty plea before convicting and issuing a fine?”
He added: “In DVLA prosecutions, you find lots of older people being prosecuted. Pensioners can’t break the rules just because they’re old. But there’s a risk they are having health difficulties, or have died, & they can’t keep up with road rules. How do the authorities mitigate for this?”
DVLA court papers don’t include the defendant’s age, meaning that the magistrates miss out on an important fact that could “call into question the whole case”, claims Kirk.
Magistrates have the power to refer cases to open court where a prosecutor will be available to tackle issues relating to the case.
But this rarely happens and out of 477 guilty pleas to DVLA prosecutions last week, only 23 cases were moved to an open court after a guilty plea had been entered.
Kirk says he has seen defendants in their mid-90s prosecuted in this way.
In another case shared by Mr Kirk, an 84-year-old was fined £1,876 after not paying a £93.34 road tax. He became the registered owner of his vehicle in March 2023 but thought it was fine leaving the vehicle off the road and insured it in May.
He reportedly apologised for the honest mistake but still received a hefty fine.
Mr Kirk said: “Where on earth is the justice in that?”
In response to the examples, one Twitter user replied to the post simply saying: “horrible”.
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