I have been served with a magistrates’ court requisition for speeding, but I have not prior to this received a notice of intended prosecution. I was stopped by the police at the time (about three months ago), although there was no accident or anything of that kind. All they told me is that I might hear further from them, but I received nothing until the court requisition arrived today.
Unless there has been an accident, or the offending driver was warned at the time of the offence that he may be prosecuted for it, notice of intended prosecution has to be served on either the driver or the registered keeper of the vehicle within 14 days of a speeding offence.
Notice of intended prosecution is required for certain other offences too. These are the most important ones:
• Dangerous driving
• Driving without due care and attention
• Inconsiderate driving
• Failure to comply with traffic directions and signs
• Leaving a vehicle in a dangerous position
‘Accident’ is shorthand, as the full requirement exemption from service of a notice of intended prosecution arises where “owing to the presence on a road of the vehicle in respect of which the offence was committed, an accident occurred at the time of the offence or immediately thereafter”. This means that there could have been an accident caused by drivers trying to avoid danger caused by another, and the offending driver might not even be aware that there was an accident. For the purposes of this answer, it will be assumed that these conditions do not apply in this case.
Even where there was no accident, a notice is not required if you were warned at the time of the offence of the possibility of prosecution, or if you were served with a requisition within 14 days of the offence. You say the offence occurred about three months ago, and that you received the court requisition only today, so clearly you have not received the requisition within 14 days of the offence taking place.
Whether or not you have a defence based on process therefore depends on whether the warning you were given at the time amounted to a sufficient warning, and this question has been the subject of scrutiny by the courts. Take these contrasting statements by police officers in real cases that have been tried by the courts in the past:
(1) “I think you were exceeding the speed limit but (if on checking) I am wrong you will hear no more about it.” In this case, the court said that the warning was sufficient.
(2) “The circumstances of the accident will be reported… for the purpose of considering a prosecution.” Here, the warning was held to be insufficient.
(3) “I will have to report the matter to my superior officer with a view to prosecution.” This was found to be adequate.
In your case, you have said that the police told you that you might hear further from them. Instinctively, I would say that this is not a sufficient warning, so you might have a defence, but as you can see from the differing outcomes in the statements referred to above, it is not easy to predict how a court will view a statement. Furthermore, you might not have remembered precisely the words used, but the police officer might have made a record of it in his notebook. If that note was not made at, or immediately after the warning was given, then you could challenge his memory, just as much as your memory could be challenged.
You might decide that whether or not you defend the charge on the inadequacy of the warning will depend on what is at stake. I do not know the speed you were alleged to be driving at, or about any points already on your licence, so I cannot say whether you are likely to be disqualified if convicted, or what the implications of that conviction would be for you personally, so you should consider these factors before risking further expense in defending the charge.
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.