I have been stopped by the Police for driving with no insurance. I recently changed bank accounts using the switching scheme and the new bank didn’t set up all of the direct debits correctly as they should have done. Therefore the payment wasn’t made to my insurance company and they cancelled my insurance. They say they wrote to me at the time, but I didn’t receive the letter, otherwise I would have taken action. I wasn’t aware of the problem and the bank has confirmed to me in writing that it is their fault. Will I still be prosecuted for no insurance, seeing as it wasn’t my fault?
The police might decide not to prosecute you in the circumstances, although their usual approach is to do so and to leave questions of leniency to the courts. If they decide to prosecute, then you would not have a defence to the charge, because driving without insurance is known as an ‘absolute offence’. This means that your intentions are disregarded and it simply comes down to whether or not you had insurance whilst driving, regardless of the circumstances. The penalties for driving without insurance are quite severe, in that you can be disqualified from driving for any period, or the court can endorse your licence with between six and eight penalty points, as well as being fined. If the court were to disqualify you, they could not also endorse penalty points. You are most unlikely to be disqualified in your case, but this means that the court is obliged to endorse your licence, unless ‘special reasons’ are found to exist and are applied to you.
A ‘special reason’ must:
• be a mitigating or extenuating circumstance;
• not amount in law to a defence to the charge;
• be directly connected to the commission of the offence; and
• be one which the court ought properly to take into consideration when imposing sentence.
You may see from this that special reasons are not concerned with the consequences for you having your licence endorsed or being disqualified, but relate to the circumstances of the offence itself.
I would expect a court to have some sympathy with you, but I am mindful of a precedent set by a court that decided that even though the accused had made several attempts to obtain a policy of insurance and was not deliberately or intentionally trying to evade the law, these were not special reasons. I would, however, argue that in your case you did everything expected of you to continue with your insurance and you were unaware that it had lapsed, which is somewhat difference from the case I describe above. The court would want to know more about how it was you did not receive the insurers’ letter cancelling your insurance, but if they are satisfied on this point, then they would, in my opinion, have good grounds to find special reasons not to endorse your licence. Even if they do so, they then have to apply those special reasons, so it is a two-stage process: (1) can these facts amount to special reasons in law; and (2) if so, should they exercise their discretion not to endorse your licence.
It would in my view be harsh not to find special reasons if the facts you have explained are accepted, but it is entirely the discretion of the court and I have known some courts to be less than sympathetic than a reasonable person would expect.
Designed by solicitors, tested by barristers and available around the clock, Road Traffic Representation is an online legal system that allows people accused of a motoring offence to get free advice on how the law will be applied in their case, and referral to a telephone helpline and representation by a barrister in court if required. Practising solicitor Martin Langan spent two years designing the system and creating the data repository which allows the software to analyse road traffic offences with the same authority as a solicitor.