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You have been caught speeding at way above the limit.  Can you save your driving licence?

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Introduction

Speeding is perhaps the most common of motoring offences.  It can be dealt with by way of a speed awareness course, a conditional penalty notice, or, in the most serious cases, by way of a Single Justice Procedural Notice.  The SJPNs are usually sent out when the speed registered is considerably above the speed limit (or in cases in which a conditional penalty notice is not accepted).  The penalties for speeding are a fine plus, either a disqualification or the endorsement of 3-6 penalty points.  In the latter case you will avoid a ban unless the number of points you have incurred has reached 12 or more for offences committed within 3 years of each other in which case you will face a penalty points disqualification of at least 6 months.  This article deals with cases in which a motorist falls to be sentenced for a one-off speeding offence at significantly above the speed limit.

Sentencing Guidelines

There are guidelines for the breaching of speed limits which the court is obliged to follow unless satisfied that it would be contrary to the interests of justice to do so (which is rare).  For example, in a 70mph limit the guidelines suggest that from 71-90mph the court should endorse 3 points, for 91-100mph 4-6 points or a ban of up to 28 days, and, for 101mph or more 6 points or a ban of up to 56 days.  If the speed is considered by the court to be ‘grossly in excess’ of the limit then it should consider a ban of more than 56 days.   (Thus, for example, if a motorist were speeding at, say, 120mph the court could easily ban for 3-4 months). The level of the fines imposed are linked to the Defendant’s income.  However, a fine is sometimes regarded as a relatively minor penalty when compared with disqualification given the potential consequences (such as loss of job, considerably increased insurance premiums, alternative costs of transport, inconvenience etc.)

The Courts’ Discretion to avoid Disqualification

Although the courts almost always follow the guidelines they still retain, as can be seen from the preceding paragraph, discretion to simply endorse points rather than disqualify.  The greater the extent by which the speed limit has been exceeded the more likely the court will consider a disqualification as the fitting sentence.  However, unless the speed is considered as ‘grossly in excess’ of the limit many courts will consider simply endorsing with penalty points if a sufficiently persuasive case is presented to them.  Even if a motorist has been speeding at grossly in excess of the limit the court will still have to determine the length of the ban and so will consider the arguments put to them.

How can a Disqualification be avoided or reduced in length?

The speed is the single most important factor for gauging the sentencing starting point.  But, there are a whole host of other factors which the court may well take into account. These include the following:- 

the reason for speeding, whether the Defendant has a clean licence, the road, weather and traffic conditions at the time, whether the Defendant is remorseful (yes, the expression of remorse is an accepted mitigating factor), whether the Defendant has undertaken any remedial action to improve his/her driving and, of course, the consequences to the Defendant of loss of licence.  Will the Defendant lose his/her job, for example, or be unable to carry out other tasks which are over and above everyday needs (such as driving for a charity or fulfilling a role as a registered carer, for example)?

The above is just a brief list of some of the very wide range of circumstances which can apply to an individual’s offence and related mitigation.

The Court Appearance

If you have to attend court for your speeding offence this will either be because you ticked ‘Guilty’ wish to attend, or, because the court has required you to attend to consider a ban.  As can be seen from the preceding paragraph there is a wide range of potentially relevant factors for the court to take into account.  You can maximise your chance of avoiding a ban, or of receiving a shorter ban, by emphasising those factors which positively mitigate your offence.  In some case it may be prudent to provide evidence to the court of some of the factors upon which you seek to rely.   This can sometimes prove difficult for unrepresented Defendants who can be at risk of emphasising factors which aggravate rather than mitigate (unrepresented Defendants can fall into the trap of emphasising factors which make the situation worse from the court’s perspective).

Conclusion

So, what should you do if you have been caught speeding and admit the offence?  First of all you need to assess whether you are at risk of a ban and, if so, for how long.  Only you will know the full consequences of a ban to you, but, if the consequences include, potentially loss of job or other catastrophic consequences, then you will need to consider how best to prepare and present your case.  You may think you should contact a specialist motoring offence lawyer who has extensive experience of presenting such cases.  If you would like to speak to such a lawyer for an initial discussion of your case, without obligation, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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