Had a very interesting case in court this week.
My client, a man of good character with no speeding convictions in the last 25 years, was sent a Notice of Intended Prosecution for speeding.
At the time, he wasn’t sure who was driving so asked for a photograph. The photo, as normal, did not help.
My client returned the Notice of Intended Prosecution, correctly filling in the part that was headed “I WAS THE DRIVER OF THE VEHICLE AT THE TIME OF THE ALLEGED OFFENCE AND I WISH TO ACCEPT THE CONDITIONAL OFFER” (their capitals not mine) and signed it. He also sent his licence and a cheque for £60 to pay the fixed penalty.
He then added a covering letter stating words to the effect of ‘I have little choice but to accept the fine even though I may not have been driving. I feel I am being punished for failing to provide the driver’s details rather than speeding.’
He then went on to enquire whether they would allow him to take the speed awareness course instead.
The police returned it effectively saying it was an equivocal plea and prosecuted him for failing to provide the driver’s details, which carries 6 points as opposed to the 3 for speeding.
We pleaded not guilty. Our defence was that the signed S172 was definitive proof that he was the driver and the letter accompanying it carried no weight.
We relied on the cases of Michael Mawdesley, Dwight Yorke v Chief Constable of Cheshire Constabulary  EWHC 1586 (ADMIN) and also Hatton v Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Constabulary  EWHC 209 (ADMIN).
The first case was different from ours but there was a useful comment from the Judge that “the form used by (the police)… enables it to be used under s12 of the RTOA as definitive proof that the accused was the driver on the relevant occasion”
Hatton V CC of Devon and Cornwall was similar to our case. Here the driver returned the form correctly filled in and signed with a note stating that it was not to be used in criminal proceedings. The court stated – “It seems to me quite clear that the statement of the claimant in his reply to the Chief Constable gave the necessary information, stating that he was indeed the driver at the material time. It is true that he purported to include in it an indication that it could not be used for any purpose. I am afraid that that indication was not worth the paper it was written on.”
They referred to s12 of the RTOA –
(1) Where on the summary trial in England and Wales of an information for an offence to which this subsection applies [it applies to speeding] —
(a) it is proved to the satisfaction of the court, on oath or in manner prescribed by rules … that a requirement under section 172(2) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 to give information as to the identity of the driver of a particular vehicle on the particular occasion to which the information relates has been served on the accused by post, and
(b) a statement in writing is produced to the court purporting to be signed by the accused that the accused was the driver of that vehicle on that occasion,
the court may accept that statement as evidence that the accused was the driver of that vehicle on that occasion.”
I addressed the court and explained that my client had confirmed on oath that his intention was that he would accept the fixed penalty but hoped we would be offered the speed awareness course. If the police had simply cashed the cheque and put points on his licence then he would not have complained.
I further added that if he was taken to court for the speeding rather than being given a fixed penalty (for example, if he had been so far over the limit that a fixed penalty was not appropriate) he would not be able to argue that he was not the driver. If he tried, the CPS would jump up and wave this document and say “you admitted you were the driver, this is a legal document signed by you confirming you were driving”
The court accepted our defence and found him not guilty. He was never prosecuted for speeding, his cheque was returned uncashed and his licence remains clean.
They do say a bird in the hand is worth 2 in the bush?