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Northgate today called for a strong national framework to govern the increasing use of penalty notices in enforcement procedures. In a response to the Department for Transport’s consultation on the detail of the graduated fixed penalty and deposit schemes, Northgate said that this was essential if public confidence in the system was not to be undermined.

The introduction of graduated fixed penalties and deposits marks a further extension in the growth of penalty notices which have now become one of the major forms for administering justice in the UK. On a national basis the company believes that there is a lack of consistency governing penalty notices for different offences and infringements which leaves individual citizens and organisations confused by an array of different arrangements, and undermines the administration of justice. The company is campaigning for a Penalty Notice Act to ensure that there is a joined up approach to policy making and assisting in educating the wider public about its community responsibilities under both civil and criminal law.

Commenting on the detail of the proposals in relation to the introduction of graduated fixed penalties and deposits, and new powers of the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) to issue fixed penalty notices introduced under the Road Safety Act 2006, Northgate calls for:

• a national and targeted information campaign aimed at informing operators and drivers of the new system to encourage compliance;

• training for all VOSA officers who will issue penalty notices;

• research to be carried out by the Department for Transport on the impact of the penalty notice regime on operators and drivers;

• a twenty four hour system for payment and receipts for all penalty notices issued;

• automatic transfer of penalty notice information to the Traffic Commissioners to ensure that they have the most comprehensive information in taking decisions about operators;

• consideration of ring-fencing funds obtained by the system to promote the wider objectives of promoting environmental improvement, climate change, community safety and employee well-being;

• a complete revision of the guidance for drivers and operators.

Ian Blackhurst, Managing Director of Criminal Justice & Public Safety at Northgate Public Services said today:
“Used appropriately, penalty notices can be an effective way of addressing high-volume, low-level criminality, anti-social behaviour and environmental nuisance but their overall impact on the public must be assessed if the system is not to be undermined.

“The penalty notice system is the fastest growing form of administration of justice in this country. They are appealing to policy makers within government departments because they are cheaper than enforcing the law through the courts. But government may pay a higher price if it continues to allow the penalty notice system to grow in an ad hoc and increasingly incoherent fashion.”

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For more information:

Fellows’ Associates:

Kathy Sutton 020 7849 3403; 07966 890401; ksutton@fellowsassociates.com

Notes to Editors:

1. Northgate Information Solutions is a leading provider of innovative services to the public sector and utilities markets. Northgate’s task is to enhance public value through the intelligent use of people and technology, and to share in the economic and social benefits that this brings.

2. In the UK, the company works with four out of five local authorities and every police force. Northgate supports public service transformation through sustainable performance partnerships. Its technology is used in the administration of more than £12 billion of revenues and benefits; in electoral administration systems covering 18 million people; to support the national system for reporting police performance; and in the management of over three million local authority and housing association properties worldwide. Founded in 1969, the company has over 6,000 employees.

3. The powers to introduce the schemes are included in the Road Safety Act which received Royal Assent on 8th November 2006. Northgate responded to the Department for Transport’s consultation on the details of the Graduated Fixed Penalty and Deposit Schemes to be incorporated in secondary legislation. The consultation period began on 7th June 2007 and ended on 30th August 2007.

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