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?
It is an offence to permit a person to use a motor vehicle on a road while uninsured. You would be found guilty of the offence, whether or not you knew that the vehicle was not insured for your friend to drive it. An honest belief that your friend was insured is not enough. It would be different if you had loaned the vehicle on the express condition that your friend first insured it, as then his failure to do so would not amount to your ‘permitting’ him to use it. Contrast this with the situation where your friend tells you he is insured, when in fact he was not, and on the strength of that assurance you lend him your vehicle. You cannot rely on that assurance as a defence to a charge of ‘permitting’, whereas expressing a condition that your friend insures would. You might be forgiven for thinking this is a very fine distinction, but that is the law.
All is not necessarily lost, however. Although you would still be convicted of the offence of ‘permitting’, you might be able to escape the otherwise obligatory endorsement of your driving licence with six to eight penalty points. Usually, obligatory means just that, but the court can be persuaded that ‘special reasons’ exist for not endorsing your licence. ‘Special reasons’ are not the same as mitigating circumstances. Mitigation is all about asking the court to be lenient because of the circumstances of the offence and the consequences for you of conviction. No matter how sympathetic a court is, mitigating circumstances alone cannot avoid an obligatory endorsement. Although ‘special reasons’ relate directly to the commission of the offence, they go further than just this connection. So what is the difference? An example or two (not related to insurance) might help. The fact that a speeding offence occurred in good road conditions with little traffic around is mitigation, but is not a special reason. Conversely, driving a matter of a few feet where there is little chance of coming into contact with another vehicle could amount to a special reason not to disqualify in a drink driving case (although this is an over-simplification and should be the subject of a question and answer all of its own).
So how can special reasons help in your case? The High Court decided in an appeal case around 15 years ago that lending a car to someone else to drive it in the genuine, but mistaken, belief that the other person was insured could amount to a special reason not to endorse penalty points. This does not mean that special reasons would always be found, and each case would be decided on its own facts. In the appeal case in question, the person lending the car had been told by the other person that he had comprehensive insurance (which was the case) and, by his own parents, that comprehensive insurance policies allowed the use of another’s vehicle. This is not always the case and was not in this case, but was enough to apply special reasons.
The last point is important. Just because a court finds that certain facts could amount to special reasons, you only escape endorsement if they then decide that they should apply those special reasons, which is not always the case.
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.