A punishment for a motorist

A small news article from The Times of 19th March, 1935 –


FREDERICK BRIGHT ROBINSON, 33, engineer, of Oaklands Drive, Weybridge, was at the South-Western Police Court yesterday fined £100 and his licence was suspended for life on charges of driving his car dangerously at Putney while he was under the influence of drink.

In today’s money, that fine of £100 amounts, I think, to about £5000 – not insignificant.

A ban for life might not have been seen as quite so desperate a punishment as today, of course, because in 1935 people were generally rather less dependent on the motor vehicle as a means of getting about.

It’s worth noting, in passing, that Mr. Robinson was permanently stripped of his right to drive a motor vehicle at a time when the prominent cycling lobby groups were campaigning energetically against cycle tracks, arguing that the roads themselves should be made safer by means, amongst others, of more stringent punishments for offending motorists.

This entry was posted in Dangerous driving, Drink driving, Driving ban, History. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to A punishment for a motorist

  1. Luke says:

    Interesting. Also, if you look at that fine in comparison to wages at the time, it’s huge. For reasons too dull to go into, I once saw something suggesting that in the 1950s, a partner in a City law firm might expect to earn £1000 pa. So that fine is 10% of the earnings of one of the famous 1%.

    • Paul M says:

      Unlikely. At that time a London bus driver was paid about £5 pw. £20pw for a city law partner would hardly be a likely ratio even then, although city slickers’ pay rates have generally risen much faster than those of the average Joe.

      Aside from persistent, repeat offenders, I am not sure that a lifetime ban can be justified in these days of human rights laws. It has indeed become difficult to pursue many occupations without a driving licence and a car, and there is no virtue in harming an offender’s dependants.

      On the other hand, there needs to be far more offenders pursued to criminal trials, even if the punishments at the end are not so draconian. Causing death by dangerous driving is clearly worthy of jail time but our prison population is already bursting at the seams so more imagination is needed in sentencing for lesser offences. The lucky dangerous drivers who manage not to kill someone should get heavy fines, an expiring ban (or a requirement to re-test) and a criminal record which remains in the open under Rehabilitation of Offenders Act for a good few years. Many professions such as law and accountancy would likely be reluctant to employ an ex-offender, who would in any case be obliged to disclose convictions even if time expired. Working with children would probably also be a no-no.

      The objective of course should be deterrence, not punishment – the grieving family would prefer to have their loved one back in place of a coffin and a banged-up perpretator.

      • Luke says:

        Paul M, I agree that some (I suspect very few) occupations are hard to follow without a driving licence. But if you are (a) dangerous and (b) drive a lot, that’s all the more reason to ban you (see the blind lorry driver who killed a cyclist and then a holocaust survivor- Martin Porter’s cycling silk blog).

        As for 1950s earnings, I don’t know about bus drivers, but my source on legal earnings is a letter from the then senior partner of what I think is now the largest law firm in the world – as you say, city slicker earnings have increased. I’ll try a bit more research.

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