Government relents over £12m lorry driver fines...12 December 2002

Contributed by localrags on Dec 12, 2002 - 06:44 PM

The Home Office has told the Freight Transport Association that it will not now seek to collect the £12 million of fines imposed on lorry drivers and operators who have inadvertently carried stowaway asylum seekers into the UK.

The Home Office has told the FTA: 'The Court of Appeal, in the case of International Transport Roth GmbH and Others v Secretary of State for the Home Department ('Roth'), found that although the penalty regime was not unlawful it was, in certain respects, incompatible with

the European Convention of Human Rights. Following consideration of the Court of Appeal's findings we have decided that it would not be appropriate to take action to enforce payment of any penalty imposed prior to 8 December that remains unpaid.

'We are writing to all persons with unpaid penalties imposed prior to 8 December to inform them of this decision. In cases where a vehicle was detained but subsequently released upon payment of a security, and the money received is still held as a security, we will be advising those concerned that the money will be returned.'

FTA Chief Executive Richard Turner said, 'This is a common sense and inevitable decision by the Home Office. Clearly it would have been totally wrong to have imposed fines on some operators against the background of an out of court settlement which resulted in fines not being enforced on others.

'However, FTA remains very unhappy that the £2 million worth of fines already collected will not be returned. The Home Office has told us that those who have paid have 'accepted liability.'

'Failure to return these fines is cynical and inconsistent with the common sense and goodwill shown in waiving enforcement of those that are outstanding. FTA will be seeking to review this decision.'

£14 million of fines, representing 7000 stowaways at £2000 each, were imposed between April 2000 and December 2001 when the High Court ruled the fines illegal. From December 2001 until the imposition of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 penalty notices were issued but without obligation to pay. Since 8 December 2002 fines can be of £2000 on the driver and £2000 on the operator for each stowaway. However, the amount of fine is variable and the Home Office says that no fines will be issued where the driver and operator can demonstrate that they have taken due care to protect their vehicles from stowaways.