...failing to provide driver details
A former leader of the Tory party has been convicted and fined for failing to disclose who was driving at the time his car was caught speeding by a speed camera. Patrick Campbell, a Motoring Offence Solicitor at Simpson Millar, considers the circumstances leading to this verdict.
The one time Home Secretary, Michael Howard, received a fine of £900, along with a bill for £625 costs and an order to pay a £90 victim surcharge, following his appearance at Wimbledon Magistrates Court. He was also given 6 penalty points on his licence.
The case came to court after the Toyota Prius belonging to Mr Howard and his wife, was clocked doing 37.3mph in what was a 30mph zone.
At the time, the couple had been returning from a trip to Kent, a journey they made on a regular basis, and it was claimed by Mr Howard, upon receiving the letter detailing his alleged defence, that he couldn’t remember who had been driving. Instead of entering the correct details on the form regarding the fact that his spouse could’ve been driving, the former Home Secretary simply entered ‘wife’.
Michael Howard intends to appeal the conviction.
Accused of speeding?
If you are issued a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) claiming you have been caught speeding, and provided that you are the registered keeper and that you have not recently changed your contact details with the DVLA, you must receive it within 14 days of the alleged offence. Failure by the police to issue the NIP within this timeframe compromises their prosecution, threatening to make it invalid unless they can prove exceptional circumstances as to why the document arrived late.
If your NIP arrives in good time, or is issued at the scene, you must fill it out and return it, usually triggering a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN).
Filling out an NIP
The Notice of Intended Prosecution will ask you who was driving the vehicle at the time of the alleged incident. If it was somebody other than yourself, you should specify who it was by giving their details – writing ‘wife’ will not suffice. The form must be completed and returned within 28 days.
Returning an NIP does not constitute an admission of guilt, nor will it incriminate you, so you should always make sure you fill it out correctly and send it back within the allotted timeframe. In view of this, arguments that you cannot be compelled to complete the form due to fear of self-incrimination will fall on deaf ears at Court.
If you do not return the NIP, there is the chance you will be charged with failing to provide driver details, which, if convicted, carries a fine of up to £1,000 and 6 penalty points – a fact Michael Howard can now attest to.
Fixed penalty notice
Once a Notice of Intended Prosecution has been returned there is a 6 month time limit for the police to decide whether to take further action. In most cases a Fixed Penalty Notice will be issued, which, if accepted, will lead to a minimum penalty of £100 and 3 points on your licence. If you have passed your driving test in the previous 2 years you will lose your licence if you accrue 6 points or more.
You are not obliged to accept a Fixed Penalty Notice. Accepting an FPN is an admission of guilt and means you will have to pay the fine and take the endorsements. Once accepted, an FPN cannot later be overturned because you have changed your mind. It is therefore essential to get advice BEFORE returning it.
Appealing a fixed penalty notice
If you disagree with the speeding offence, you can challenge it by requesting a court hearing. It is vital that you seek professional legal advice before going to court, to ensure you have the best chance of success. A lawyer specialising in motor offences will be able to offer you expert representation.
“The case of Michael Howard shows how important it is to identify the driver or possible drivers correctly when filling out a Notice of Intended Prosecution. Failure to do so means the possibility of a penalty much more severe than the one you would’ve faced initially.”
“That said, mistakes can happen and everybody has the right to fair representation in court. Simpson Millar has the legal expertise to provide you with the best defence for any alleged motoring offence, including challenging a Fixed Penalty Notice or a prosecution for failure to provide driver details.”
Written by Patrick Campbell.
For more information on motoring offences and the services offered by Simpson Millar, please call:
0808 129 3304