Every week numerous motorists receive unwelcome news in the post ie that the police are considering prosecuting them for one or more motoring offences. Typically an NIP will list offences, for example, such as careless driving, dangerous driving, and failing to stop, and or to report, an accident. Usually NIPs are accompanied by notices requiring the recipient to identify the driver too. It is against the law not to comply with such a request. Failure to do so results in the endorsement of 6 penalty points and a fine. Then, if the recipient names someone else as the driver the police will usually send the named person an NIP accompanied by a notice requiring that person, too, to identify the driver. Once the driver has been identified the police consider all the evidence they have before deciding whether to start a formal prosecution and, if so, for which offences.
The recipient has 28 days to reply. Perhaps the recipient is completely unaware of having been involved in any kind of an incident at all. Alternatively, perhaps s/he is aware of an incident but takes the view either that s/he wasn’t at fault at all, or, that the other party, or parties, were principally to blame. The NIP usually offers the option of setting out a written account of events stating, for example,
‘This will assist us in deciding on the appropriate course of action’.
It is not mandatory to provide a written account. The recipient will have fulfilled his legal duty if s/he answers the questions as to the identity of the driver appropriately. So, what approach should you adopt?
Unless you happen to be a motoring offence solicitor you may find yourself at a loss when confronted with issues such as:-
- What is the law relating to each of the offences listed?
• What evidence do the police have?
• How do the Police determine such cases?
• Will I make my situation worse rather than better by giving an account, for example, by inadvertently making ‘admissions’ which the police might rely on. (This is why lawyers often advise clients to make ‘no comment’ in police interviews ie for fear of making admissions that the police then rely upon in the prosecution against the motorist.)
But, if no account is provided will the police think I have no defence to the charges? Could this actually encourage the police to prosecute me? If you have these and other questions in your mind what should you do?
Specialist Legal Advice
Clients regularly contact Kent Traffic Law in such situations. There is no charge for an initial call during which we can assess how we can help. If the matter progresses to a meeting we will take detailed instructions from you as to what occurred. We can then advise as to how the law might be applied to the facts as described. With extensive experience of police and CPS procedure we can then suggest how to draft a response which is tailored to the given circumstances (any such response must be entirely true to the account supplied by the client but, crucially, how matters are expressed and which factors are included is, in our experience, of the utmost importance).
What options do the police have?
The police will consider all of the evidence in their possession including any admissions made by the recipient of the Notices. They are more likely to prosecute in cases in which they believe the recipients have no defence to the prospective charges and in which the recipients have made admissions which will materially help in any prosecution. This is why it is so important to consider carefully how to respond. If the police do prosecute, in a case in which the Defendant had provided a carefully and prudently crafted response, the Defendant can then maintain a consistent account at court (which should help the Defendant). Whether a Defendant maintains ‘Guilty’ pleas or ‘Not Guilty’ pleas, or a mixture of the two, if s/he has considered the options from the outset s/he is more likely to achieve a favourable outcome.
Most of us will never have received a Notice of Intended Prosecution. Consequently, we don’t know how best to respond. Should we supply an account (when we don’t know the relevant law or legal procedure being applied by the police)? Nor do we understand the legal elements of the offences under consideration or in what circumstances the police are likely to exercise discretion either to prosecute or not to prosecute. We could unwittingly actually increase the prospects of prosecution by supplying an account! In such circumstances, you may think that by engaging an expert you will optimise your chances of a positive outcome.
We regularly advise clients on how to respond to such Notices. Of course, there are no guarantees and each case turns on its own facts, however, by engaging expert help at the outset it may be possible to exert an influence over proceedings to bring them to an early end (which may not be possible once they are started). If by doing so you manage to avoid the stress and costs of a drawn-out prosecution along with the risks of a harsh sentence at the end it may be the most cost-effective decision you can possibly make. Even if the police do prosecute you considered responses from the outset are likely to result in more favourable outcomes than would otherwise be the case.