Motoring Case May Result In Less Prosecutions
If a vehicle travels through a speed camera above the legal limit, the next step in the process is that the Police issue the Registered Keeper of the Vehicle with a Notice of Intended Prosecution which requires that person (either a company or an individual depending on who owns the vehicle) to name the driver. If this is done and the driver is identified, then that driver may be offered a speed awareness course, or a fixed penalty or in the worst case be prosecuted at Court. The requirement to provide this information is under section 172 Road Traffic Act 1988 and the notice received is often referred to a section 172 notice.
However, there are many occasions when the recipient of the notice is unable to provide the necessary information as to the identity of the driver. The recipient even though they may not have been the driver themselves could face prosecution for failing to provide the identity of the driver and have 6 penalty points endorsed upon their licence.
For a summary only offence which most motoring offences are, the prosecution have to lay the information before the court within 6 months of the date of the offence. A recent Scottish case has cast doubt on the approach to these prosecutions and the legality of many prosecutions brought by some police forces may now be called into question. It should be stressed at this point that until the same issue is heard by an English court the judgement in the Scottish case is merely of persuasive value, although it is noted that it was persuasive enough for Greater Manchester Police to withdraw 300 cases that may have been out of time as a result of the ruling.
The ruling in the Scottish case was that the 6 month time limit for bringing a prosecution applied only when the initial offence of failing to provide the information took place ie at the end of the 28 days that the recipient of the notice had in order to provide the information. Many police forces incorrectly believed that they could prosecute within 6 months of any request for the information ie they could keep sending out further notices to the same recipient effectively rendering the time limit as meaningless.
What does this mean for motorists? Well if you have received a summons or charge for failing to provide information as to the identity of a driver (or ever in the future find yourself in that position) you should seek immediate legal advice as to whether the proceedings have been commenced within time. Common scenarios in which this problem can arise are where there is a company vehicle with different employees permitted to drive it or families in which more than one person may have driven the vehicle (eg husband, wife, teenage children etc) and due to the passage of time the Registered Keeper is unable to name the driver at the time of the incident.
It is not clear whether all police forces will follow the example of Greater Manchester Police and so other forces may still seek to commence proceedings outside of the 6 month time limit in which case the Defendant would have a strong legal argument to suggest that the proceedings are time barred.
Should you require any advice in respect of an allegation of speeding or failing to provide information as to the identity of the driver or indeed any motoring law issue please do not hesitate to contact Daven Naghen or Anita Toal on 01775 722261 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.