Driving Whilst Disqualified
Driving whilst disqualified is not a minor driving offence. People go to prison for driving whilst disqualified very regularly. A large number of factors can lead to disqualification. S103 Road Traffic Act 1988 provides that you commit an offence if you drive while you are disqualified from holding or obtaining a licence.
Driving whilst disqualified is a driving offence of strict liability. It is no defence to show that you did not know about the disqualification or could not reasonably have known about it. The only defences available are either that you did not drive or that you did not drive on a road within the definition of the relevant legislation. It may be possible to challenge the disqualification itself.
When your period of disqualification comes to an end you must apply for another driving licence. If you do not make an application correctly to the DVLA and you drive on a road you commit a further driving offence under S87 Road Traffic Act 1988.
If you have been disqualified until you pass an extended test then you must complete your period of disqualification. Thereafter you can apply for a provisional licence to the DVLA but you must complete a driving test before you drive again.
Driving Without Insurance
Driving without insurance is covered by S143 Road Traffic Act 1988 and is an offence of strict liability.
This driving offence covers driving without insurance cover, use of a vehicle with cover which does not cover the use to which the vehicle is being put or using a vehicle for hire and reward or allowing another person to use a vehicle without insurance. It is no defence to say that the insurance company cancelled in error.
Section 165A RTA 1988 allows a police officer to seize a vehicle which has no insurance. The police can then demand that fees are paid before the vehicle will be released. Courts do have the power to crush vehicles seized in this way. This is so even if the defendant is not the registered keeper of the car.
The usual penalties in addition to that are 6 points or an immediate disqualification and a fine of £200 plus costs. The only way to avoid the addition of points is to argue that special reasons exist. Section 34 Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 provides that the court is free to order that there be no disqualification or a shorter period if special reasons apply. These would include situations were an insurance company cancelled a policy in error.
Unlawful use of bus lane fines
Bus lane contraventions carry higher penalties. The authorities regularly rely upon CCTV to enforce these offences. Every lane has its own hours of operation which can and do lead the motorist to become confused and end up with a £120 fine. These are worth appealing.
The first thing to check is the sign indicating the hours of operation. If you were not in the lane during the prohibited times, then the lane was open to all traffic and your fine can and should be appealed.
The second are the warning signs. There must be an advance sign to warn you of the bus lane ahead. There must be a sign at the beginning of the bus lane. There must be regularly repeater signs warning motorists of the contravention. They must be no less than 300m apart.
Also check the road markings. A bus lane should commence with a diagonal taper in the form of dashed line approximately 30m long. It must otherwise be signified by a thick solid white line. The words ‘BUS LANE’ should be written at the start of the lane and at regularly intervals no less than every 300m.
A bus lane contravention must be covered by a Traffic Order. The order must stipulate the exact location of the lane and its hours of operation. These must match the ones that the Council seek to enforce. If there is any variation, the fine cannot be enforced against you.
Driving offence – Speeding Fine
A person cannot be convicted of speeding solely on the evidence of one person. There need not necessarily be two witnesses but there must be some corroborative evidence before any speeding fine can be issued.
The most common source of corroboration comes from the speedometer reading of a police vehicle. A police officer can give evidence of his opinion that the defendant was speeding and support it by pointing out that he traveled at the same rough speed as the defendant and his own speedometer gave a particular reading.
Speed Guns and Radar
A radar gun or a VASCAR device can also be used. The Crown do not need to be able to establish that these devices are accurate although if they do not, there are speeding fine challenges that can be brought.
GATSO devices have restricted approval and cannot be used to detect speeds in an area where the speed limit is less than twenty miles per hour.
To ensure that the evidence produced by the device is admissible the Crown must serve upon the defendant a copy at least seven days in advance of the hearing. The defendant can at least three days before the hearing serve a notice on the prosecution requiring the attendance of the person who signed the document and only then can the document be admitted as evidence. It is often worthwhile doing so as the person in question is rarely available to attend.
Automatic speed detecting devices are widespread. Procedure is very important with such devices. A Notice of Intended Prosecution will need to be served and the fixed penalty offer can be used.
Both roads and individual vehicles can be subject to speed restrictions. As a rule before a speed limit is imposed the approval of the Secretary of State is required. This does not apply to speed limits of 20 mph which are created by individual local councils and can be enforced in law.
A restricted road is any road which has a system of street lamps no more than 185 metres apart. Such a road is restricted to 30 mph by reason of the street lamps. This has thrown up a large number of speeding fine challenges. The higher courts have consistently held that minor breaches will be tolerated. In Spittle v Kent County Constabulary lamps 212 metres apart gave rise to a proper conviction as the difference was so minimal that it could be ignored.
More significant deviations will not.
If there is no system of street lighting then a person cannot be convicted of a driving offence unless the limit is indicated by traffic signs. The signs must conform to the requirements in law. There should be regular repeaters signs unless this is a motorway or a restricted road.
Uneforceable Speed Limit
A speed limit is unenforceable without clear signing of the speed limit. S85 RTRA demands that the authorities erect signs which give the motorist ‘adequate guidance’ of the speed limit. It used to be thought that ‘adequate guidance’ meant total compliance with the requirements and any imperfection could be used to escape liability. There had been support for that proposition in earlier case law. The case of Coombes was helpful to the motorist.
But the recent appeal of Peake has severely restricted this point. The Court in that case decided that all that need be asked is whether there is sufficient compliant signing such that any motorist travelling at excess speed at the point of enforcement will have been given ‘adequate guidance’ of the speed limit.
Inadequacy of road signing remains a proper challenge to the prosecution. Traffic signs are regularly badly maintained. Peake has added a further hurdle for the defence to overcome but it can be done. The test is now twofold. Firstly, the deficiencies must exist. Secondly, they must be such as to weaken the ‘adequate guidance’ given to the motorist of the speed limit.
Penalty Charge Noticee (PCN)
The Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) must be issued within twenty eight days of the contravention. If it is not, they are time barred and it is void.
The PCN itself must state the date of the notice, the matters alleged, the grounds of the allegation, the charge must be paid not later than the last day of the twenty eight day period, any discount offered. Also there must be mention of the fact that if there have been no representations and the fine has not been paid, the Council will increase the fine. They must make clear the amount of the increase. The penalty charge must record that it was issued by post and the reasons for doing so. Not all are lawful.
A penalty charge notice (PCN) must also specify that representations may be made to the enforcement authority but that any received outside of the 28 days period may be disregarded. It must offer an address to which representations can be made and offer a list of the various forms of representations that may be accepted.
Moving Traffic Violation
Councils have taken to enforcing some moving traffic contraventions by means of CCTV or Smart Cars.
There are an innumerable number of such contraventions but all share the same appeal procedure.
Always check the signing in the area. It needs to be present and compliant with the RTA requirements but also to be located so that you were informed of it in advance of the manoeuvre. Also, check the other signs in the area to ensure that there was no contradiction.
Ensure that there is a CCTV warning sign in the area. If there are not then a recent case in Wirral has suggested that the fines may be invalid.
Ask for evidence of you committing the driving offence. Check any CCTV footage carefully. They need to be able to show that you committed the offence with the sign in full view. Attempting to commit the contravention is not sufficient. With a banned right turn, a three point turn is not a contravention.
Ask the authority to provide you with a copy of the Traffic Order. Some traffic offences do not require a Traffic Order but most do and it will need to match the prohibitions enforced by signs and road markings exactly. Without it they are void.
Always remember, never pay if you intend to appeal. Doing so is an admission of guilt.
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This article was written by a member of the Expert Answers legal advice team. Expert Answers provides online legal advice on all aspects of UK Law to users in the United Kingdom.