It happens to all of us. The sinking feeling. The flash of the speed camera, the dreaded letter on the doormat.
You’ve received a Notice of Intended Prosecution and it is causing you stress. You search the web for hope, for advice, for a clear path to the sanctuary of the Speed Awareness Course, or the mythical loophole. Your search returns a lot of results, some too good to be true and it leaves you none the wiser.
Here is some guidance, but the quickest way to get some reassurance is to contact Ian Anderson who will be able to explain the impact and options available to you.
Loopholes and technical defences
True “Loophole” defences are rare, and the holes are often filled in as quickly as they appear.
However, there are always technicalities to consider.
Has the Notice of Intended Prosecution been issued validly? Have the proceedings been brought in time? Are the dates, times, roads, registration numbers and personal details accurate? If any of these points are defective, there could be scope for a technical defence.
Timing is crucial, the Police can usually amend errors, provided they are not time-barred from doing so.
Good and bad arguments
Aside from technical defences, a well-presented argument can make a real difference to the outcome.
An arguable case is nearly always available, so it makes sense to think about that as a starting point and leave the technical points to the lawyers.
Good arguments are persuasive, evidence-based, and presented clearly.
Bad arguments are anecdotal, unsustainable or refer to satellite issues which distract from the focus of the proceedings.
For example, attempting to explain away a speeding offence on the basis of being an excellent driver, having great reactions or driving a well-maintained car with exceptional brakes and handling qualities will do more harm than good. It can also be tempting to suggest that you were unfamiliar with or surprised by the performance of the vehicle, as an excuse, but the Court’s view of those types of arguments would be that it’s a reason to take more care, rather than less.
More often than not, the best angle of attack is to look at cause and effect. What caused the offence and how will it impact you, and (more importantly) others.
If the impact on you, your wider family or a business will be particularly severe, then an argument constructed around those points is often the best way forward. As far as the cause of the offence is concerned, it is not helpful to suggest that you were tired, concentrating on something else, or running late as an excuse.
Often the less said about why the offence occurred, the better, particularly if it can be set against a backdrop of good driving over a long period and a lot of miles per annum.
Avoiding a disqualification
A disqualification is often discretionary (for speeding, driving without due care and attention, and not having valid insurance) and sometimes mandatory (totting up more than 11 points for a combination of driving offences and drink driving – the most common ‘obligatory’ offence).
Where a driving offence does not lead directly to disqualification, but the driver amasses more than 11 points, this ordinarily results in an instant 6-month disqualification.
It is possible to argue that the disqualification should not apply if it would cause “exceptional hardship”. There is no definition of what constitutes “exceptional” hardship, but generally speaking, not having access to a vehicle and all the convenience and enjoyment which comes with that privilege, will not cut the mustard.
Arguments which focus on the hardship of others, such as vulnerable family members, are usually viewed positively. Any impact on employees, customers or suppliers is also seen as relevant. We have had success with on-call GPs, business owners and construction workers (who need to transport tools to work) when arguing that the disqualification would cause exceptional hardship.
Avoiding a speeding or no insurance disqualification is often dependent on similar factors to the exceptional hardship arguments above.
If the road was unfamiliar and had varying speed limits, or there was a genuine mistake about the terms of an insurance policy then a well-constructed argument can significantly mitigate the punishment.
Mandatory Disqualification and Special Reasons
Some offences lead directly to an obligatory ban.
They include drink driving, and dangerous driving, which both come with a minimum 12-month disqualification.
A special reasons argument, such as a genuine emergency, laced drink, or shortness of distance driven can succeed in avoiding any punishment for those offences. Moving a car for the emergency services to access an area, or a medical emergency might also succeed as special reasons.
Ian Anderson is one of the region’s leading lawyers advising on driving offences and other regulatory matters, contact him as soon as you receive the letter of intended prosecution to ensure the best chance of success. Call Ian on 0113 8494011 email IanAnderson@schofieldsweeney.co.uk