Driving ban for criminals ... whatever their offence

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The Independent Online
Criminals could be banned from driving for life as a new penalty for any offence, under Government plans announced yesterday.

Fine defaulters are the only group exempt from life bans, but even they could be outlawed from the road for many years.

The Government believes the new penalties, which will be given in addition or instead of other punishments, will act as a deterrent to offenders. But the move has been criticised by penal reform, civil liberty groups and motoring organisations, who argue that they will have little or no effect upon criminals and will simply encourage more people to drive illegally.

At present, a ban can only be imposed for a driving offence or one involving the use of a car. But, under the Government's plan, offenders could be deprived of their licences for any offence. Magistrates and judges will decide the length of the ban.

Home Office minister David Maclean said: "Taking away the freedom to drive ... will be an additional and powerful tool for the courts."

The new penalty will be introduced as pilot schemes, although the Home Office has not yet finalised any plans.

Paul Cavadino, chairman of the Penal Affairs Consortium, which represents a wide range of organisations dealing with offenders, said: "Disqualifying non-motoring offenders from driving makes little sense. It will hamper offenders' rehabilitation, create further headaches for an overstretched police service and damage the interests of accident victims."

Harry Fletcher, of the National Association of Probation Officers, added that the Home Office's 1994 Motor Projects in England and Wales research found that when young men are given no hope of becoming legal drivers they are likely to ignore the law and drive without a licence or insurance.

"There appears to be nothing to back up the Home Office belief that removing an individual's driving licence will cut crime," he said.

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