For a feature about road traffic law, you might be wondering how a motorist can commit an offence relating to a post box, so the title is probably a bit confusing. What we’re referring to here are offences where proceedings are instigated by a posted notice. Many motorists will be aware of these already, but some – particularly new drivers – may not know what to do. A motorist is considered a “new driver” for two years after passing their driving test. It is particularly important for new drivers to be aware of this process, as if it is not complied with, your licence may be revoked completely.
Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP)
The most common notice through the post is a NIP, and we covered this notice in greater detail last year. In summary, if you’re flashed by a speed camera, caught running a red light, or reported by another motorist for an offence such as careless driving, the notice must be sent to the registered keeper within 14 days. A NIP does not automatically mean you are being charged with an offence.
The purpose of the notice is to identify the driver, as a speed camera will only capture the registration number of the car. The registered keeper will then either:
1. Name themselves as the driver;
2. Name somebody else as the driver;
3. Not know who was driving; or
4. Ignore it (which a surprising number of motorists do);
5. Complete it incorrectly/inadequately.
For the following explanations it is easier to stick with the example of a speeding offence.
1. Naming yourself as the driver
The registered keeper of the vehicle has a legal obligation to fill the form in and confirm who was driving. Naming yourself as the driver is not an admission of guilt, but an admission that you were driving at the time of the alleged offence. If the speeding offence is relatively minor, you should then receive a fixed penalty notice which will allow you to accept three points and £100 fine, without having to go to court. If you accept this offer, the matter will be dealt with in your absence and that will be the end of it.
If you do not accept this offer (and there are a number of legitimate reasons why you might not wish to do this), then you can indicate on the form that you do not wish to accept the penalty, or you can simply ignore the notice. Once the time limit for accepting the offer expires, the matter will move on to the “summons to court” stage (see across).
2. Naming somebody else
As the registered keeper, the law expects you to know who was driving your vehicle at any given time. If somebody else was driving the vehicle, it is still important that you, as the registered keeper, fill the notice in, as opposed to just giving it to the driver to sort out. You would need to complete the form to confirm that a) you are the registered keeper and b) you were not the driver at the time and c) provide the details of the driver so that the authorities can contact them with the intention of prosecuting the right motorist. After you return the form, the nominated driver will then receive their own NIP to complete, and presumably then confirm that they were in fact the one that was driving.
3. Don’t know who was driving
If you do not know who was driving at the time, then you need to provide information of any potential drivers. The matter will then proceed to the “summons to court” stage (see across).
4. Ignoring the notice or completing the notice incorrectly
So, if you do anything other than options 1 or 2 above, you will potentially be opening yourself up to a separate offence of failing to furnish information. It is for this reason that new drivers need to be careful. A speeding offence, if accepted, may attract three points and a £100 fine. This would not result in a new driver’s licence being revoked. If the NIP is not dealt with correctly and you are ultimately convicted of failing to furnish information, then the minimum penalty is six points and a fine of up to £1,000. This would then result in the DVLA revoking your licence, meaning that you must retake your driving tests again.
Summons to court/requisition
You may receive a summons/requisition to court if you either rejected a fixed penalty, the offence is not suitable for a fixed penalty (i.e the speed was too high) or if by imposing penalty points, the number on your licence would total 12 or more.
When you receive a summons, it will most likely be asking you to enter a plea and you can:
λ Plead guilty by post
λ Plead guilty at court
λ Plead not guilty
For fixed penalty offences, or those where you are not at risk of disqualification, you can plead guilty by post and not have to attend court. After the hearing, you will be notified of the result. If you wish to make any representations to the court about the penalty, then you should always opt to plead guilty at court. If you do not believe you are guilty of the offence, then you should indicate a “not guilty” plea, after which the matter would proceed to trial.
If you are pleading guilty by post, the court needs information about your finances to determine a fine, so you should fill in the statement of means declaration that comes with the form.
This article is intended to clear some of the initial confusion about the court process with these offences, but we cannot stress enough the importance of legal advice. When legal proceedings start, you should seek advice immediately, as there are often options available to you that may exist outside of accepting a fixed penalty.
Motoring Defence Solicitors are road traffic lawyers specialising in drink and drug driving offences. Based out of their central London offices, they provide free advice on a range of offences to motorists nationwide. You can contact Neil Sargeant for free on 0800 433 2880 or visit the website at www.drinkdrugdriving.co.uk.