A couple of months ago, I was flashed by a speed camera on the M25 and I received a notice of intended prosecution seven days later. I no longer have the envelope in which the notice was sent, and I donít recall whether it was sent to me by first or second class post. I have since received a court requisition charging me with driving at 81mph in a 50mph variable speed limit. I do not recall that variable limit being in place at the time. I believe that I was driving at around 70mph, but I canít be sure. I have no active points on my licence. The court papers say that I can plead guilty by post. Should I do so?
The law states that the Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) may be served by first class post (and other means, not including second class), but this does not mean necessarily that it having been sent by second class post would amount to a defence. Firstly, you would have to prove (on a balance of probabilities) that it was received by second class post and, secondly, the court could take the view that if the NIP was received within the 14 days allowed, no prejudice was suffered by the particular postal service used. You could then find yourself having to mount an appeal for a higher court decision to be made on the point, but this would be disproportionate to what is at stake.
With regard to your perception of the speed you were driving at, in order to challenge speed camera evidence, you would need some compelling contrary evidence and this is not particularly strong at the moment. If you decide to plead guilty, you can contest the evidence as to the actual speed. Strictly speaking, this would require the court to adjourn the hearing to a later date to allow prosecution and defence witnesses to give evidence on the facts. However, it is possible that in the face of a guilty plea, the prosecution would be minded to offer no evidence as to speed, other than that the speed limit had been exceeded. This is not something that can be counted on, so once you have challenged the evidence, you might be on a course that would entail further time and expense. You could withdraw the challenge if the case were to be adjourned, but you would lose any credit for an early plea of guilty in terms of the fine that would be imposed, if that were to be the case.
As you have been offered the opportunity to plead guilty by post, you should accept that offer (if you are pleading guilty), as the court cannot disqualify you without first giving you an opportunity to appear in person to persuade them as to why you should not be disqualified. However, if they have a written plea before them, with a good mitigating statement in support, they might decide to dispose of the case just by the imposition of penalty points and no disqualification. The court can disqualify or endorse penalty points, but not both.
In pleading guilty by post, you should say in a note attached to the plea, and referred to in the plea (a mitigation statement), that your perception of your speed was around 70mph, but that you confirm your plea of guilty. This might then just persuade the prosecution to offer no evidence as to speed, in order to dispose of the case without further delay. The mitigation statement should also refer to any circumstances of the case that might help you, for example, if traffic conditions were light, the weather and visibility were excellent, and anything good you can say about your driving record. Also mention any work, family or social requirements for you to keep your driving licence. You do not have to volunteer any information that does not help you, so long as you tell the truth in what you do say, and do not mislead the court in any way.
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.