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Birmingham Office

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Birmingham
West Midlands
B1 1BD

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London Office

330 High Holborn
Holborn
London
WC2A 1HL

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The Pinnacle
Midsummer Boulevard
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MK9 1BP

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How To Complete A Single Justice Procedure Notice?

by | Nov 3, 2022 | Articles, Crime, Driving Offence Advice

What is the Single Justice Procedure Notice (SJPN)?

The Single Justice Procedure Notice (SJPN) is the method by which many motoring offence prosecutions begin in the Magistrates’ Court. The purpose of this is to reduce the number of cases which appear in the Magistrates’ Court for a hearing in person. The SJPN was introduced several years ago as a cost and time saving exercise for the criminal justice system.

If you have received a SJPN, it may well be possible for the Court to deal with your case without the need of a hearing in person however, this will depend upon a series of factors which we will cover within this article.

When isn’t a Single Justice Procedure Notice appropriate?

You will usually receive an SJPN for less serious motoring offences such as speeding. The Single Justice Procedure is not used for motoring offences where the Court has the power to impose a prison sentence.

Therefore, if you have been charged with drink driving, dangerous driving or failing to provide a specimen for analysis, you will not receive an SJPN because these offences can result in custodial sentences, and they are considered to be unsuitable for the Single Justice Procedure.

What happens at a Single Justice hearing?

A Single Justice hearing is a hearing which takes place in private where the prosecution case is assessed by the Court legal advisor and a Single Justice (Magistrate).

In these hearings, a defendant does not attend, their solicitor/ barrister does not attend and nor does the prosecution.

The Single Justice (Magistrate) will assess the response from the defendant and will either list the matter for a trial, list the matter for a sentence hearing where all parties are expected to attend or impose an immediate sentence. If an immediate sentence is to be imposed, it will usually comprise of penalty points and a fine.

What happens if I do not respond to a Single Justice Procedure Notice?

If a person fails to respond to the SJPN within 21 days, shortly thereafter a Single Justice hearing will take place and a defendant is likely to be found guilty due to their lack of response and either sentenced with penalty points and a fine or, they will be issued with a notice of proposed driving disqualification

If you are sentenced in your absence due to not responding, penalty points will automatically be endorsed on to your license and you must pay the financial penalty imposed upon you.

If the Court took the view that the offence ought to attract a disqualification, the Court will usually send you a notice of proposed driving disqualification in which it will explain that you are risk of a driving ban and that if you wish to avoid the disqualification, you must respond by a certain date. Failure to respond to a notice of proposed driving disqualification will usually result in a driving disqualification. If you are found driving after the date stated on the notice, you could be prosecuted for driving whilst disqualified.

Why would the Court send a notice of proposed driving disqualification?

The most common reason the Court would not sentence via the single justice notice and issue a notice of proposed driving disqualification is because a person is at risk of a totting up driving disqualification (penalty points driving ban).

As an example, if you already have 9 points on your license, and the Court is seeking to impose a further three, this will result in a total of 12 penalty points which activates the penalty points (totting up) driving ban and the Court will usually provide you with an opportunity to put forward Exceptional Hardship.

If you are unsure of how many points you have on your license, you can check these by visiting the Driving Record Government website

Step 1

The first thing to do is carefully read the first few pages of the SJPN, check that your details are correct, and it will also contain details of the alleged offence. The notice will state that you have 21 days to plead guilty or not guilty to each charge.

You can enter a plea online by visiting Make a Plea on the Government website.

An example of the first page of an SJPN is illustrated below.

Page 1 of a Single Justice Procedure Notice SJPN

Step 2

Carefully read any statements and or exhibits so that you fully understand the offence that you are alleged to have committed and the initial evidence that the prosecution have. Please do be aware that you may not have been provided with all of the prosecution evidence at this stage therefore, you may not fully be aware of the strength of the prosecution case.

One of the pages will detail the particulars of the charge and an example is illustrated below.

Page 2 of a Single Justice Procedure Notice SJPN

Step 3

An assessment will need to be made on whether you should enter a guilty or not guilty plea. This will largely depend upon the offence that you have been charged with, the evidence the prosecution has, whether you have a viable defense, whether the prosecution can prove their case and whether you have scope for a special reason argument.

This is perhaps the most complex and important aspect in completing the SJPN because if you enter a guilty plea to an offence where you have a defense, you could have avoided penalty points, a driving disqualification and a fine. Alternatively, if you enter a not guilty plea and do not have a viable or strong defense, the likelihood is that your case will be lost at trial which will mean that the risk of a disqualification increases, and you will also pay higher prosecution costs after an unsuccessful trial.

It is at this stage where expert legal advice is crucial and should be sought before making a decision on whether to plead guilty or not guilty. Receiving expert legal advice will make you aware of whether you should plead guilty or not guilty as an experienced motoring lawyer will be able to give you a good indication on whether you can win your case at trial.

Step 4

Once you have decided on your plea, if you enter a Not Guilty plea, when your response is considered, the Court will adjourn your case for a trial and in certain circumstances, a pretrial review hearing will take place before the trial.

If you case is progressing to trial, prosecution witnesses will be called to give evidence and you will have an opportunity to challenge the prosecution case and put forward your submissions. If you are considering progressing your case to trial, it would be wise to appoint a solicitor/ barrister to firstly prepare your case for trial and to represent you at the trial thereafter. Representing yourself at trial is unlikely to result in a not guilty verdict unless you have prior legal experience or training.

If you are entering a guilty plea, you can either select the option ‘Guilty, I do not want to come to Court’ or ‘Guilty, I want to come to Court’.

The option you chose will depend upon a number of factors. As an example, if you have 9 active penalty points on your license and the offence you are entering a guilty plea to attracts a further 3 points, if you select the ‘Guilty, I do not want to come to Court’ option, the Court will check your driving record and will note that you are a totter and will not sentence you at that point. Rather, the Court will issue a Notice of Proposed Driving Disqualification. If you fail to respond to the notice of proposed driving disqualification, the Court will impose a disqualification of at least 6 months.

In a different scenario, you may have a clean license however, you may have been caught driving at 106MPH in a 70. You may select the ‘Guilty, I do not want to come to Court’ and in those circumstances, the Court will still issue a notice of proposed driving disqualification, providing you with an opportunity to mitigate and potentially avoid the ban.

In short, the ‘Guilty, I do not want to come to Court’ option is only suitable if you are not a totter, you are not a top bracket speeder and as a new driver, you are not going to reach 6 penalty points.

If you are a new driver, you must be aware that reaching 6 penalty points in the first two years of passing your driving test will activate a DVLA revocation of your license. If you are at risk, you ought to seek legal advice as soon as possible.

An example of the options sheet of the SJPN is illustrated below.

Page 3 of a Single Justice Procedure Notice SJPN

Conclusion

In conclusion, careful consideration ought to be taken in respect of your plea along with consideration in respect of how many points you have on your license and whether this will activate a penalty point driving disqualification.

If you are considering defending a case and challenging the prosecution, it would be wise to have expert legal advice and representation in your corner so that your lawyer can cross examine the prosecution witnesses in a robust manner, followed by closing submissions highlighting the weakness on the prosecution case, as this will substantially improve your chances of being found not guilty.

If you have recently received an SJPN and are unsure of what to do, please contact one of our specialist motoring lawyers on 0330 818 9837 or complete our contact form and a member of our team will be able to provide you with a no obligation initial call in respect of your options.

Do you require legal advice &/or representation?

If you are facing a driving offence prosecution and require expert legal representation at Court, call our lawyers on 0330 818 9837 or complete our Contact Form.

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