Single Justice Procedural Notice
What is a Single Justice Procedural Notice?
The Single Justice Notice Procedure is a relatively new procedure by which the police can start a prosecution but only for offences which do not carry the risk of a sentence of imprisonment such as speeding, driving without due care and attention, using a mobile phone whilst driving and so on. The police send a Notice to the accused which usually includes a statement of the offence charged, the evidence, in the form of witness statements, and the plea options open to the accused.
Below are some questions around Single Justice Procedural Notices that previous clients have asked. Contact us if you are not sure how it affects you or you need some help with the process.
Why would the police issue a Single Justice Procedural Notice?
This procedure is intended to save the time and money otherwise spent in convening full court hearings for relatively minor matters which could have been dealt with administratively. A single Justice sits alone with a qualified legal adviser (not in open court) and deals with the Notices which have been issued. Usually, a court hearing is only convened if the Defendant wishes to plead ‘Not Guilty’ or a hearing is necessary upon a ‘Guilty’ plea to determine whether or for how long the motorist should be disqualified from driving.
I have received a Single Justice Procedural Notice, what should I do?
You have 21 days to respond to the Notice online or by post. You can plead ‘Not Guilty’ in which case you will receive notification in due course of when your case will be listed for a hearing in open court. Or, you may indicate a ‘Guilty’ plea and either opt to attend court for sentencing or ask to be sentenced without the need to attend court. If the single justice is prepared to sentence the Defendant without including a driving disqualification as part of the penalty then there is no need for the case to be listed in open court and the case can be completed administratively.
I am not sure how to complete the notice, what should I do?
If you do not return the completed Notice within the deadline you may be convicted and sentenced in your absence. There are explanatory notes sent with the Notice. Read them carefully. If you are still not sure how to plead or how to complete the form you should obtain legal advice without delay. Do bear in mind that once you commit yourself to a course of action it will have consequences. So, if you are unsure do obtain advice before completing the Notice.
I wish to take the option of pleading ‘Guilty’ and being sentenced in absence. Is there any risk I will be required to attend court?
You will be given the option of attending court if the view is taken that a driving disqualification should be considered in your case. Just because you are given this option does not imply that you will be able to avoid a disqualification. Examples of when you would be given the option of attending court in order to try to persuade the court not to disqualify include the following: if you were exceeding a speed limit by what is considered to be an excessive margin or if your admission to the offence means that you have become liable to receive a penalty points or ‘totting up’ disqualification (this will apply if the relevant penalty points on your licence will now total 12 or more).
I wish to admit the offence but know that I can expect to be required to attend court for consideration of a disqualification. What should I do?
With the types of offences dealt with under this procedure, the courts have a discretion as to whether to disqualify and, if so, for how long. If you wish to keep the length of your ban to a minimum or even avoid a ban altogether you should consider very carefully how to proceed.
One option that you can take is to indicate that you will plead ‘Guilty’ in court and NOT complete the ‘mitigation’ section at this stage. This gives you time to obtain legal advice so that your mitigation can be prepared carefully in advance and presented to the court persuasively. You may find that this course offers you a good chance of avoiding a disqualification.
Another option is to take advice before you complete the Notice so that the mitigation section can be completed to best effect. If this avoids the need for you to be called to court at all you would have avoided the risk of disqualification altogether which is clearly the best possible outcome.