There is an increasing number of times when I wonder if we are simply going mad! Puerile TV shows are rife, political about-turns likewise, but on the motoring front, what about changes in the law relating to driving offences? I have commented, under the heading” War On Drivers”, on the speed cameras, or those “Gatso Big Brothers” (invented by a rally driver, would you believe), on the much-increased fines for motoring offences, on how the police can insist on a car being mobile-confiscated if it has the slightest defect, and so on. On the madness front, what of WDI?
WDI? Yes, “weekly disposable income”, which those who elect to appear in court when convicted of a motoring offence, instead of accepting an on-the-spot fixed-penalty ticket, are required to divulge on a WDI form, if found guilty in a magistrates’ court. The idea is not only to make the punishment fit the crime (and “crime” is correct, for this comes under the 1991 Criminal Justice Act) but also fit the pocket. So a driver found guilty of offences ranging from forgetting to fasten his or her seat belt (or maybe a passenger’s) to alleged dangerous driving, now has to supply the aforesaid information about his or her income, under such headings as outgoings for housing, food, heating (of house, not car, presumably) clothing and travel.
Well, could you give this information without consulting an accountant, or the Inland Revenue? It seems that it is now prudent to have not only a barrister but an auditor in court to aid you..! For what happens if you fill in the WDI date incorrectly, without intention to defraud? Prison or the Tower no doubt… And who checks the information anyway? And is it only the vehicle driver who is subjected to this new legal means-test? Note that whereas a poor man can be fined £20 or thereabouts for a seat-belt offence, an affluent motorist may have to pay up to £500. On a charge of dangerous driving, if proved, the ratio is in the region of £50 to £100, against £2500 for a wealthy offender. The maximum fines under these headings have been increased by £400 and £1500 respectively in recent times; someone has already been fined £774 for 18mph over the M3 limit.
Is the WDI move introduced to persuade more drivers to accept fixed-penalty tickets, instead of defending themselves in court? We all know how difficult it is to defend one’s innocence on a dangerous driving charge, against an ambitious policeman’s evidence, backed up by the kind of civilian witness who flashes his or her headlamps at you when you are performing a perfectly safe overtaking manoeuvre, having purchased a car with the acceleration to make this possible. Now you have the WDI to trouble you as well… Madness? It seems like madness to me. For other examples, talk to the miners.