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Archive for September, 2016

Driving Whilst Using A Mobile Phone – Penalty to Increase

driving whilst using a mobile phoneDriving Whilst Using A Mobile Phone – Penalty To Increase

 

The government has announced tougher sanctions for driving whilst using a mobile phone. Both the financial and points penalties will double – the fine increasing from £100 to £200 and 6 points endorsed to a licence instead of the former 3 points.

 

The reasons for this proposed change to the law are many and include: the increase in unlawful mobile phone use whilst driving; the lack of prosecutions and convictions for this offence; and the failure of the general public to take the offence seriously.

 

Importantly, a number of high-profile cases has tipped the balance in favour of making penalties more punitive. These include the death of cyclist, Lee Martin, 48, in 2015, who was killed by a driver who had eight previous convictions for using his phone at the wheel.

 

Part of the problem is that mobile phones are ubiquitous these days, and a taken-for-granted item for the younger generation, who have never been without them. However, mobile phone use crosses age and gender divisions. To put our collective mobile phone use into some sort of context, a survey earlier this year showed that the average person swipes, taps and pinches their display about 2,617 times a day.

 

So, changing attitudes towards driving whilst using a mobile phone is vitally important.

 

Minister for Transport, Chris Grayling, said that driving whilst using a mobile phone was as socially unacceptable as drink or drug-driving. For this reason, he urged people to be watchful about the habits of their friends and family members and to help discourage people in their close circle from using mobile phones whilst driving.

 

The change in legislation will have dire consequences for newly qualified drivers (who have held their licences for less than 2 years), as they stand to have their licences revoked on reaching 6 points. As a result of this, they would return to learner driver status and have to reapply for a provisional licence until they have once again passed both theory and practical tests.

 

A source at the Department for Transport has said that a disproportionate number of those caught driving and using a mobile phone were either young, a newly qualified driver, or both.

 

This means that many newly qualified drivers could face the revocation of their licences after one mobile phone offence, whereas before this would have meant they had their new licence endorsed with 3 points and were effectively given a ‘second chance’ before they faced a revocation.

 

Another group of drivers who would be hit hard by the change in legislation is those in a ‘totting up’ position. As it stands, once an experienced driver (who has held their licence for more than 2 years) reaches – or exceeds – 12 penalty points, they automatically fall to be disqualified for a period of 6 months, unless they have grounds by which they can conduct a successful Exceptional Hardship application.

 

So, for those motorists with 6 points on their driving licences, who could have previously absorbed another 3 points for a mobile phone offence without tipping over the important 12 point limit, this means a 6 month disqualification under the ‘totting up’ provisions.

 

In line with the government’s commitment to be tougher on mobile phone use whilst driving, the Department for Transport is soon to launch a new ‘Think!’ campaign, to help raise awareness. It is hoped that the combination of re-education and tougher sanctions will act as a deterrent and make people think twice about using their mobile whilst driving.

 

If you have been charged with driving whilst using a mobile phone, or have questions about either a revocation of a licence or disqualification as a result of the ‘totting up’ of points, please contact our office today on 01623 600645 for free, initial advice.

 

Motoring Lawyer in Nottingham Magistrates Court

motoring lawyerMotoring Lawyer in Nottingham Magistrates Court

 

Following a hearing at Nottingham Magistrates’ Court this week, David Renwick thanked motoring lawyer Steve Williams of Forrest Williams Legal Ltd for the forceful mitigation which persuaded the District Judge to award 6 penalty points instead of imposing a disqualification for his speeding offence.

 

David, who works for a dealership in the city which sells high-performance cars, had stressed to Steve during the preparation of his case that losing his driving licence, even for a short period of time, would create great difficulties as his job means he has to take customers out on test drives every working day.

 

Motoring lawyer Steve Williams had advised David that the magistrates’ sentencing guidelines indicate that the speeding offence in question – 55mph in a 30mph limit – would likely be punishable by way of a disqualification within the range 7-56 days and that this was the outcome he should prepare himself for. The anticipated penalty for this speed, as well as a fine and other court costs, would be a disqualification of around 28 days.

 

However, our motoring lawyer assured David that it is sometimes possible, and especially so when a case has been professionally prepared and conducted in court, to persuade the Magistrates or District Judge to take into account the full background to the case and be more lenient when sentencing.

 

Steve realised that the bald facts of the speeding offence looked grim. He knew the court would take the third category speeding offence very seriously, and therefore be inclined to sentence David harshly in line with the sentencing powers laid down in the guidelines.

 

It would not be easy, Steve knew, but with more than 25 years’ experience working within the criminal justice system, he also knew exactly how best to prepare the case for court, what to say and just how to say it.

 

It is this level of experience and expertise, gained as a result of representing a great many clients charged with speeding offences, which sets Steve apart as a motoring lawyer and results in people calling our office and asking for him by name – not just for local court hearings, but for cases being heard in courts across the whole of England and Wales.

 

Steve took the time to discuss the full background with David and then, on the day of the hearing, made the court aware of the facts. On the date in question, David had been out on a test drive with a customer and was driving along a familiar road.

 

However, the speeding offence did not occur as a result of a blatant disregard for the legal requirement to drive at or below 30mph (as the court might otherwise have assumed), but because David was driving a new, turbo-charged high-performance vehicle that he was unfamiliar with. David told us that he tapped the accelerator and the car very quickly reached the speed recorded before he could apply the brake to slow the car down.

 

Whilst David accepted liability for the speeding offence, and pleaded guilty to it, he said it was important that the court understand he was not a ‘boy racer’ and that, in fact, he relied on maintaining his driving licence in order to do the job he had enjoyed doing for the last 20 years.

 

In addition, David told us he had held his driving licence for around 30 years and that it was clean, without any endorsements in the last several years.

 

Only by listening carefully to David’s story was our motoring lawyer, Steve Williams, able to first formulate a plan for the careful preparation of his case for court, and then conduct the mitigation of his case in a knowledgeable and persuasive way. David told us he was delighted with the outcome.

 

If you have been charged with a speeding offence and fear you may be disqualified from driving, call our office today on 01623 600645 for free, initial advice.

 

Failing to Provide a Specimen for Analysis

failing to provide a specimen for analysisFailing to Provide a Specimen for Analysis

 

Kevin Green expressed his joy and relief this week at Wolverhampton Crown Court following his successful appeal against conviction and sentence for Failing to Provide a Specimen for Analysis.

 

Kevin had also been charged with Driving Without Due Care and Attention – which he admitted and pleaded guilty to. This charge was brought as a result of his driving falling below the standard expected of a competent motorist on the date in question. Kevin made no excuses for his behaviour in this regard, admitting to his case worker that he had been driving too fast, and changing lanes erratically, as he rushed to get home after a night out. Kevin received credit for entering an early guilty plea to this charge.

 

However, he denied the second charge of Failing to Provide a Specimen for Analysis and made his case worker aware of the full circumstances relating to his attempts to comply with the police’s requests for samples they could then analyse to check if he was over the legal alcohol limit when driving.

 

Kevin, who has lived with asthma since childhood, made the police aware that he had asthma and that he had recently been suffering from a chest infection. He was nevertheless asked to try and give the two evidential breath samples, but was unable to give the sustained breath required for the intoxyliser (breath test) machine.

 

The police then asked Kevin if he would give a blood or urine sample. He agreed to do so.

 

A medic was summoned and some time was spent trying to extract a blood sample. Kevin complied with the procedure fully. A strap was tied around his arm, he was asked to make a fist, the veins in both arms were tapped and yet no blood could be taken. The medic told Kevin that his veins were ‘too deep’. Kevin told us he had never had any issue giving blood in the past, but that the medic seemed nervous and was actually shaking at one point.

 

Kevin was then asked to give a urine sample. Again, he complied with the request. The first sample was disposed of and he was given an hour to give a further sample. Kevin tried, but could not produce any more urine. He explained to the police that his work meant he had trained his bladder and could go for many hours without feeling the need to urinate. The time allowed ran out and, although Kevin had tried several times to give a further sample, he was not able to do so.

 

Kevin was duly charged with Failing to Provide a Specimen for Analysis.

 

We advised Kevin to plead not guilty to this charge, as he clearly had valid reasons for not being able to comply with the requests. He had not refused to provide specimens and had indeed tried his best to do so.

 

However, Kevin was found guilty at trial and sentencing accordingly. His sentence included a disqualification from driving.

 

We advised Kevin that we did not agree with the magistrates’ court’s decision and that he should lodge an appeal. This would mean the case would be reconsidered, but this time by the Crown Court.

 

Kevin took our advice on board and instructed us to prepare his appeal.

 

Kevin’s conviction was quashed by the Crown Court, and when the court’s decision was announced, we were delighted as we felt that – finally – justice had been done. Kevin had been honest with us from the start. He admitted he was not blameless on the date in question and this is why he pleaded guilty to the charge he felt responsible for. However he could not, with a clear conscience, plead guilty to something he had not done. Neither would we ever advise any of our clients to do so.

 

As a result of Kevin’s successful appeal, his sentence was quashed, which means he is able to drive again. He is also to make a claim for a partial refund of his legal fees, which we will assist him with.

 

As Kevin’s case illustrates, you should never plead guilty to something you did not do, or do not feel responsible for. However, a fight for justice often necessitates a strong legal team who have the expertise to ensure that the very best possible outcome is achieved.

 

If you intend to plead not guilty to a charge, or have a case listed for trial, call us on 01623 600645 today for free initial advice. 

 

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