Special courts will deal will traffic-light jumpers and speeding motorists

Ministers want to free up time for more serious cases

Traffic-light jumpers and speeding motorists are to be dealt with in special traffic courts in a bid to free up time for more serious cases, the Government said today.

About half a million motoring cases are heard in magistrates' courts every year and can often take longer to progress than major offences, the Ministry of Justice said.

Ministers want to set up traffic courts to reduce court delays as part of a wider plan to improve Britain's criminal justice system.

Justice Minister Damian Green said: "Enforcing traffic laws is hugely important for road safety and saving lives.

"However, these cases take nearly six months on average from offence to completion, despite the fact that over 90% of cases result in a guilty plea or are proved in absence - this is simply unacceptable.

"The justice system must respond more quickly and effectively to the needs of victims, witnesses and local communities, and these dedicated courts will enable magistrates to better organise their work and drive greater efficiency."

The Government is discussing with the judiciary, who are responsible for managing cases in the courts, how the traffic courts can be delivered across the country

Chief Constable Chris Eyre, the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) lead on criminal justice, said: "We have implemented this new procedure to traffic cases with great success in nine police forces - radically simplifying and speeding up the process.

"This is only implemented when there is a guilty plea or where the case against a defendant is not contested.

"Effective first hearings have significantly reduced the amount of adjournments and a single court can deal with up to 160 cases a day."

The nine areas which have trialled the new traffic courts are Essex, Hampshire, Kent, Lincolnshire, Metropolitan Police, Nottinghamshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and West Yorkshire.

Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan said: "We welcome efforts to make our courts more efficient and specialised.

"It's important that we have swift justice, and I look forward to seeing results of how this works in practice.

"But this is the low-hanging fruit of problems in our criminal justice system.

"We have called for a root-and-branch review of our whole criminal justice system, and this should be the Government's priority as there are bigger savings to be found in the way our courts and prosecution services work.

"Real savings and efficiencies would avoid the need for the Government's increased use of cautions for serious offences and mean that their proposed cuts to criminal legal aid, that risk doing so much damage to the justice system, could be abandoned."