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Motoring Offences – the costs of conviction and the Notice of Intended Prosecution

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The imposition of penalty points upon a driving licence can prove costly; the majority of Insurance Companies will increase an insurance premium by anything between 10 to 20% for a single speeding conviction. It is also likely that the speeding motorist’s new best friend, the speed awareness course, will also result in a hike in insurance premiums.

At the foothills of any summary motoring allegation the first consideration of any motoring lawyer is to ensure that the prosecution have served the correct documentation within the statutory time limits. The Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) for the substantive speeding offence is nearly always accompanied by the request for information to identify the driver of the vehicle, affectionately known as the ‘Section 172 Notice’. Irrespective of the recorded speed and whether the vehicle was actually committing an offence, the 172 offence carries at least 6 penalty points, part of the potential sanction in failing to incriminate yourself. Service of the NIP and the 172 Notice prove one of  the most fertile grounds for criminal litigation and legal argument by the motoring lawyer.

The Camera Safety Unit (CSU), the unique name adopted by the Police across South Wales for the authority which now determines whether you are prosecuted for a summary motoring offences, utilise the latest technology to ensure that time limits are met when it comes to the service and receipt of any notice under the Road Traffic Act. . Prima Facie, the motoring solicitor who now puts the prosecution to proof in respect of service of the Notice of Intended Prosecution and the section 172 Notice has the uphill task of climbing the Criminal Procedure Rules. You must disclose your legal loophole and defeat the sophisticated computer system employed by the CSU.

Moreover, the risks of prosecution costs are significant; the CPS in South Wales routinely request £600 to £700 in prosecuting a failed defence over and above the penalty points and financial penalty. The newly imposed Criminal Courts Charge could add anything up to a further £1000 to the total cost of losing the case. Losing can be expensive.

CPR 2012 Rule 4.10 deals with the service of documents in Criminal proceedings. Unless the contrary is proved and the document is sent via first class post or equivalent, it is deemed received by the intended recipient two days after posting. For private individuals, a correctly addressed envelope sent via the Royal Mail to their last known address will be deemed delivered. This becomes an irrebuttable presumption of service if the NIP is sent by Recorded delivery according to Gidden v CCof Humberside 2009. The CSU regularly produce a Certificate of Service in the form of a statement from the person who hands the NIP to the over burdened postman. Whether the motorist has actually collected and seen the NIP is irrelevant, unless the contrary is proved.

Therefore a NIP sent to the correct address is deemed served even where the proposed recipient is away from the address for a significant period of time. On this point we must have sympathy for the unfortunate motorist in Phillips v McCormick 1971 who despite being hospitalised when the NIP fell through has letter box and for a significant period thereafter, was deemed to have received the NIP. Alternatively the document can be served personally upon the alleged culprit or registered keeper. Personal service is often attempted where the CSU are fast approaching a deadline.

Looking down from the summit of the prosecution case post service of speeding documents appears daunting. However, the motorist client who claims to have completed and sent the relevant NIP to the Camera safety Unit can use Rule 4.10 to his or her advantage. Where evidence is called to confirm that a section 172 requisition was sent by the motorist in accordance with Rule 4 it is deemed served.

The vast majority of NIP’s are sent via first class post, leaving open the challenge that the NIP was not received, provided the motorist calls evidence to the contrary. The motorist who suggests that the NIP was not received must prove this upon the balance of probabilities. Take for example the NIP which is produced in evidence but perhaps displays a discrepancy with the address for service or the client who has encountered previous issues with post being delivered. The balance of probabilities and the mantra ‘unless the contrary is proved’ under CPR 4.10 both become the motorist’s friend. We can also call upon The Royal Mail assist on the final descent. During 2013/14 The Royal Mail received over 870,000 complaints in respect of items posted or about 2,300 complaints each day. Perhaps climbing mount improbable in respect of the service of statutory documentation is now looking less Himalayan.

Where you have an issue with regards the service of an NIP in a motoring offence, call #1 Motoring Solicitors for assistance on 0333 023 7600. Our advice and early intervention in your case could save you several hundreds of pounds in Court costs and avoid the imposition of penalty points upon your licence.