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Taking Someone Else’s Penalty Points – The Consequences (19 April 2018)

Date: 19/04/2018
Duncan Lewis, Legal News Solicitors, Taking Someone Else’s Penalty Points – The Consequences

Millions of UK motorists have at some point in their driving history received a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) - the most common proceedings that result in penalty points.

Prosecutions for many offences that attract penalty points start with the NIP process unless certain exceptions apply. Section 1(3) of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 states that a person shall not be convicted (of certain offences) unless:

Within 14 days of the commission of the offence a notice of the intended prosecution specifying the nature of the alleged offence and the time and place where it is alleged to have been committed, was-

…served on him or on the person, if any, registered as the keeper of the vehicle at the time of the commission of the offence

This makes it a legal requirement for the perpetrator of an offence to be notified of a potential prosecution.

What Does a NIP Require?

In an age where a huge proportion of offences are captured by cameras, the need to identify the offender to prosecute is crucial. When a camera captures an offence, the image is sent to the central ticket office who will issue an NIP to the registered keeper of that vehicle. The legal obligations of the registered keeper are enshrined in section 172(2) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 which states:

Where the driver of a vehicle is alleged to be guilty of an offence…..

…the person keeping that vehicle shall give such information as to the identity of the driver as he may be required to give.

The onus is on the registered keeper to confirm who was driving the vehicle at the time of the alleged offence. It is crucial that the NIP provides as much information about the incident to assist the keeper with identification and it should state the date, location and time of the incident, the vehicle registration, its recorded speed and the device/method used to capture the speed.

What happens if a NIP is Ignored or Completed Incorrectly?

As a result of the legislation above, it is important that the notice is completed correctly and the relevant information provided. Failing to do this amounts to an offence under section 172(3) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 of “failing to furnish information” or “failing to confirm the identity of the driver” as it is sometimes phrased.

The registered keeper has legal responsibility over a vehicle that has been used to commit a criminal offence. Therefore the registered keeper must confirm the identity of this offender to facilitate effective prosecution.

The offence of failing to furnish information carries a minimum penalty of 6 points endorsed on their driving licence in addition to a fine of up to £1000. This penalty was intended to deter those who may prefer prosecution for failing to furnish information as opposed to a more serious offence alleged on the notice in the hope of securing a lesser penalty. For example, if the offence alleged was driving without insurance which carries between 6 – 8 points but the penalty for failing to furnish was set at 3 points, there is incentive for the driver to ignore the notice entirely.

It is important to complete the NIP correctly. Half-completing it or not providing the specific information required can result in charges of failing to furnish information.

If the registered keeper does not know who was driving, they must provide any information that can assist in identifying the driver.

If there are a number of potential drivers, each potential driver needs to be listed. This would still trigger the offence of failing to furnish information however the registered keeper may have a defence if they can demonstrate to the court that they could not with due diligence identify the driver at the time.

It is also important to note that the NIP must be completed by the registered keeper and nobody else.

Penalty Points & Disqualifications

There are a range of offences that carry penalty points such as speeding, driving with no insurance, careless driving, being drunk in charge of a vehicle and mobile phone offences to name but a few. Penalty points do not usually create difficulties for the motorist but are intended to serve as a daily reminder to the offender that they committed an offence. It is when the points start to tally up that motorists begin to worry as their numerous points can:

  1. Increase insurance premiums;
  2. Restrict employment opportunities; or
  3. Result in a 6 month disqualification as a totter.

“Totting” is the term used when the number of penalty points on a driving licence amounts to 12 or more. In this instance, s35 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 is relevant.

In summary, the sections say that if a motorist accrues 12 points within the space of 3 years they will be disqualified for 6 months. If the offender has been disqualified previously however and the ban was for 56 days or more than the length of the ban can be increased to 1 or 2 years depending on the number of previous disqualifications.

Given the risk of a disqualification/revocation and the impact this would have on many people who rely on their car for work, it is easy to understand the temptation to name someone else (who may have a clean licence) as the driver to avoid the potential consequences.

Perverting the Course of Justice

The very name of this offence gives an indication of its severity but so few people seem to realise that taking penalty points for someone else, or even trying to do it amounts to perverting the course of justice.

Perverting the course of justice is an indictable only offence which means it is serious enough that it can only be dealt with in the Crown Court where they have greater powers of sentencing than the Magistrates’ Court. It is defined in common law as opposed to statute and a person perverts the course of justice by putting false information on the NIP as they have:

  1. Conducted an act
  2. Which has a tendency to pervert; or
  3. Is intended to pervert
  4. The course of public justice.

The offence carries a maximum of life imprisonment when at its most serious but that would likely not apply to this situation. One of the more memorable cases saw former Energy Secretary, Chris Huhne and his wife both sentenced to 8 months in prison after the former convinced the latter to take penalty points from his speeding offence.

Some motorists may intend to pervert the course of justice but then get cold feet and confess to the police that the information was false. In these cases the police would likely bring a charge of wasting police time which is not as severe as perversion. This charge is summary only meaning it stays within jurisdiction of the Magistrates’ Court where the maximum potential sentence is 6 months in prison.

Regardless of how penalty points may affect your licence, occupation or family life, is it really worth risking your liberty?

Author, Neil Sargeant is a Road Traffic specialist within the Duncan Lewis Crime Department, based in Harrow.

Neil has specialised in Road Traffic Law since 2008, establishing close working relationships with some of the country’s leading experts in this field and maintaining an outstanding record of client acquittals. His specialist expertise stretches across all road traffic law, but is most extensive in:

  • Drink Driving (with breath, blood or urine samples);
  • Drug Driving;
  • Failing to provide a specimen for analysis whether this be breath, blood or urine;
  • Being drunk in charge of a vehicle;
  • Any type of road traffic case that involves a procedure conducted at hospital;
  • Dangerous & Careless driving; and
  • Cases involving a fatality.

For specialist advice please call Neil on 020 3114 1145 or email him on neils@duncanlewis.com.

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