Drivers who speed on motorways could be forced to pay up to £10,000 under new maximum fines available to magistrates.
Announced by Justice Minister Jeremy Wright, the new fines form part of wide-ranging reforms to the penalties that can be imposed by magistrates.
The four-fold increase in maximum fines available to magistrates means that the maximum fine for speeding on motorways could rise to £10k whilst maximum fines for breaking the limit on dual carriageways and other roads will rise from £1,000 to £4,000, along with the maximum fine for using a mobile telephone at the wheel.
Courts will also be to levy unlimited fines for the first time for the most serious crimes dealt with in the lower courts – such as environmental offences – which at present attract penalties of up to £5,000 or more.
Mr Wright said the massive increase, the first since 1991, would provide magistrates with the “greater powers” needed to punish offenders.
He added: ‘Financial penalties set at the right level can be an effective way of punishing criminals and deterring them from further offending.’
However the fines have caused conjecture from motoring groups, which have labelled them draconian and disproportionate.
Edmund King, president of the Automobile Association, told the Daily Telegraph: ‘For the vast majority of drivers the prospect of the existing £2,500 fine is a pretty good deterrent against excessive speeding on the motorway.
‘We would not condone excessive speeding in any way but fines have to be proportionate to the offence and one has to question whether increasing the fines four-fold is proportionate, and it probably is not.
‘If we had more cops in cars on the motorway that would be a much more effective deterrent.’