Introduction - Penalties
Conviction for speeding results either in an immediate disqualification from driving or the endorsement of between 3-6 penalty points on your driving record (depending, amongst other things, on the extent by which the speed limit was exceeded.) Many motorists cannot afford to be disqualified as their livelihoods and lifestyle often depend on possessing driving licences. Sometimes motorists might already have penalty points on their record. In such situations the endorsement of further points for speeding can potentially result in a penalty points disqualification (which can be for 6 months or more). Consequently, if you either admit speeding or are convicted of doing so, you will have a strong incentive to try to ensure that your penalty is towards the lenient end of the scale.
Notices of Intended Prosecution
You might have been required to stop by the police and told that you will be reported for consideration of prosecution. Alternatively, your car might have been photographed by a fixed or mobile police camera. Unless you have been stopped at the roadside you would normally receive a Notice of Intended Prosecution in the post. Such Notices are normally accompanied by a requirement, on the part of the registered keeper of the vehicle, to notify the police who was driving the car on the occasion in question. The registered keeper, to whom the Notice is addressed, will then be under a statutory duty to notify the police of the identity of the driver at the time of the alleged offence. Once the police have the identity of the alleged driver they will then pursue that individual.
Single Justice Procedural Notices
Speeding prosecutions are normally commenced by the issue of a Single Justice Procedural Notice. The Defendant will then have a decision to make as to plea ie should s/he plead ‘Guilty’ or ‘Not Guilty’. If the latter the case will be listed for a trial in a magistrates’ court at which the prosecution and then the defence can call the evidence upon which they rely. The court, having heard the evidence from both sides, will then reach a verdict.
If the Defendant pleads ‘Guilty’ s/he will have the option of indicating a wish to attend court for sentence or not. If the ‘do not wish to attend’ box is ticked the Single Justice will sentence the Defendant to a fine combined with the endorsement of penalty points unless it is thought that disqualification should be considered. If this is the case the Defendant will be required to attend court on a later date for sentencing. If the ‘wish to attend’ box is ticked then the Defendant would normally be given a date to attend court. Most Defendants tick the ‘don’t wish to attend’ box unless they consider it obvious that the court will require attendance in any event as, due to the speed or the points already endorsed, disqualification will be considered. For example, most Defendants driving at 110 mph don’t expect to be given points and a fine without even having to attend court nor do those who already have 9 points on their record.
There are 3 brackets in the sentencing guidelines to which the magistrates must have regard. Each speed limit has its own guideline. For example, in a 70 mph limit the three brackets are from 71-90 mph, from 91-100 mph and from 101 mph and above. All convictions result in a fine, dependent upon the means of the Defendant, plus either the endorsement of penalty points or an order for disqualification. In the lowest bracket the court would endorse 3 points, in the middle bracket, either 4-6 points or a ban of up to 28 days, and, in the top bracket, 6 points or a ban of up to 56 days. If the speed recorded is regarded as ‘grossly in excess’ of the limit then the court has an unfettered discretion to impose an even longer disqualification.
How can a disqualification be avoided?
If you plead ‘Not Guilty’ and are acquitted the issue does not arise although if you are convicted following a trial, in all probability, any sympathy the court might otherwise have felt for you would probably have dissipated. Although you could still put forward mitigation prior to sentence you might find that the court’s attitude towards you had hardened making it more likely that a harsh sentence would be imposed.
If you plead ‘Guilty’ you could tick the ‘don’t wish to attend’ box and include a letter of mitigation to the court. If you take this option you should be careful not to include matters which actually aggravate rather than mitigate the offence. Experience shows that this is easier to do than one might think. You would also need to ensure that if the court required your attendance anyway to consider a ban that there was nothing in the letter that was inconsistent with the way in which your oral mitigation was to be put forward.
Finally, you could plead ‘Guilty’ but opt to attend for sentence. This would normally be done if you didn’t think you stood a realistic chance of avoiding a ban (or, at least, not without submitting persuasive oral arguments as to why not).
Just because you have been accused of speeding does not necessarily mean you will end up with either points or a ban. At the bottom end of the scale, if you are only just in excess of the limit, you might be fortunate enough to be offered the option of taking a speed awareness course. On the other hand if you plead ‘Not Guilty’ and are acquitted you will also avoid any penalty (although you probably would have to meet the cost of any legal representation unless a costs order was made in your favour – you should bear in mind that these are usually only made at ‘legal aid’ rates meaning that you could still be left substantially out of pocket).
For most motorists the one thing they are not prepared to do without is their driving licence. Therefore, if you are in the category in which disqualification will be considered and you cannot afford to be disqualified you should consider your options carefully. If you are at risk of loss of licence and would like to discuss your options you can either contact a motoring offence solicitor, an ordinary criminal solicitor or, if you prefer, a motoring offence barrister. At Kent Traffic Law there is no charge for an initial telephone enquiry during which we can review the options open to you.