19 August 2010

£300 Fine for Two Feet !

Back in 1992 or thereabouts the government of the day (must’ve been Conservative) introduced a means tested fine system. I remember reading about fines of thousands of pounds for relatively simple offences and some poor kid on benefits was fined £1200 for throwing away a crisp packet. There were cases in the papers virtually every day.

A short time after the new system was introduced, I was driving to work and came up to a set of lights which had those cameras which snapped you if you went through them at red. Just as I approached the lights they changed to orange and I knew if I carried on, the inevitable flash would follow so I slammed on my brakes and stopped with my front wheels just over the line by about 2 feet. 

I breathed a sigh of relief at my ability to stop in time, but was then dragged back to reality because about a nano-second later the flash came. I couldn’t believe it and went to work in a right strop but I tried to reassure myself that when whoever checked the photos saw that I was only just over the line, they’d let me off, maybe with a warning.

No such luck! A week later a rather official looking envelope arrived and I read the contents with dread – they had fined me £300 which was the default amount for my TS10 motoring offence and which was a sizeable sum back then in 92. Of course, I could appeal but if I lost the appeal, the fine would be levied in proportion to my salary and that could have been a lot more. I swallowed hard and paid my £300 but unfortunately a few months later my friend decided to appeal her fine (also £300) and when the case was finished, she had to cough up £1,200 for a similar offence!

It was daylight robbery, and from memory, the scheme didn’t last long. There were too many stories of people on wages of £100 a week being fined £500 for stupid, trivial offences.

Fast forward to the present day and some poor Swedish bloke has just been means tested fined the astonishing amount of £650,000 (read that again - £650,000) for a speeding offence in Switzerland. OK – he was doing 300kmh and he earns a lot of cash, but £650,000? Somebody’s having a laugh and they’re probably laughing all the way to the Swiss Police Bank.   

And just a bit of nostalgia here – a picture of my licence with my £300 fine on it. I just couldn’t hand it in!  And sorry it's the wrong way up - good old Google editing again and yes, I did try (for about 30 minutes actually) to 'rotate and flip' it!!!!!

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