QUESTION I lent my friend my car to drive and thought he was insured under his own policy, but it turns out that he wasn’t. He got stopped by the Police and told them that he had the car with my consent, and now they are prosecuting him for driving with no insurance, and me for allowing him to drive without insurance. Where do I stand in all of this?
ANSWER You stand liable to be convicted of permitting a vehicle to be used on a road (assuming this to be the case) while uninsured. You say that you thought your friend was insured to drive under his own policy, but the law imposes an absolute obligation on you not to permit use of your vehicle on a road without insurance, regardless of your genuine belief that your friend was insured. It may be that your friend had comprehensive insurance, to your knowledge, and you thought that his policy covered him to drive anyone else’s vehicle with their consent, which is very commonly found in motor insurance policies, but presumably that did not apply in this case. Although this does not afford you a defence in law, you might just persuade the court that they should find that this belief amounts to special reasons not to endorse your driving licence with penalty points.
The offence gives the court discretion to disqualify you for any period, but also requires that your licence is endorsed with between six and eight penalty points, so the finding of special reasons not to endorse would be very welcome. I have explained in earlier answers to questions the meaning of special reasons, so I will not do so again at length here, but will just say that that the scope for a finding of special reasons is much narrower than mere mitigating circumstances, so it would be helpful to find some precedent for establishing and applying special reasons in your case. As it happens, there was a case quite like yours heard in Scotland in 1999, when the defendant gave permission to someone else to drive his car in the mistaken belief that the other person’s insurance covered him. That person had told the defendant that he had fully comprehensive insurance and the defendant’s parents had advised him that comprehensive policies allowed use of someone else’s vehicle. Special reasons were not found in that case at the first hearing, but the defendant appealed and the High Court allowed the appeal saying that the defendant had a genuine belief that the driver would be covered and that this could amount to special reasons.
Each case is decided on its merits and no one should expect that circumstances, such as these, should always result in a finding of special reasons, and indeed I would suggest that courts generally would be reluctant to make such a finding as it is an excuse that could often be offered, whether it was true or not.
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.