What Are the Defences That Are Potentially Available for Speeding
In the United Kingdom, the motoring offence of speeding is a common occurrence which can have significant consequences; These include fines, penalty points, and potential disqualification from driving.
Speeding is a strict liability offence, this means that the mens rea (guilty mind) does not have to be proven by the prosecution and guilt can therefore be established by the commission of an act regardless of the mindset. This essentially means you cannot sensibly submit, “I did not realise I was speeding” as a defence – any submissions on this basis will not be entertained by the Court.
However, it is important to note that individuals accused of speeding do still have the right to defend themselves and there are certain circumstances which may amount to a defence in law.
In some cases, drivers may be able to argue they had a legitimate reason for exceeding the speed limit due to an emergency or necessity. For example, if you were rushing someone to the hospital in a life-threatening situation or trying to avoid an accident, in some circumstances, a genuine emergency can amount to a defence of duress of necessity/circumstances which may result in an acquittal. Most of the time, however, an explanation for speeding will not amount to duress but may instead amount to “Special Reasons”. Putting forward an argument for Special Reasons is NOT a defence, instead, it follows a guilty finding however is used to persuade the Court to avoid imposing a ban or imposing a reduced term.
Challenging the legal procedures and technical aspects of the case can also be a valid defence. This includes questioning the accuracy of speed-measuring equipment, the handling of evidence or the conduct of police officers involved in the case.
In this article, we will explore these very circumstances explaining why they may potentially amount to an available defence when facing an allegation.
Table of Contents:
- Notice of Intended Prosecution Not Served Within Time
- Service Upon the Registered Keeper
- What Happens if You Do Not Confirm the Identity of The Driver
- Verbal Notice of Intended Prosecution
- Evidence That You Were the Driver
- What are the National Speed Limits
- The Speed Limit in Wales
- What Was the Legal Speed Limit at the Time and what was Your Alleged Speed
- Adequate Signage Defence
- Do the Police have a Strong Case
- Speed Camera Calibration Issues
- Obtaining Expert Legal Advice
Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) Not Served Within Time
A Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) is a formal letter sent by the police to the registered keeper of a vehicle to inform them of an alleged traffic offence. The notice will typically include details of the offence such as running a red light or speeding above the legal limit and will request information about the driver of the vehicle at the time of the offence. The purpose of the NIP is to identify the driver so that legal proceedings can be initiated against them. It is therefore the responsibility of the registered keeper of the vehicle to identify who was driving the vehicle at the time the alleged offence took place.
The subject of who is the registered keeper of a vehicle frequently confuses individuals; It is often the case that ownership and majority usage of a vehicle can cause some to believe they are the registered keeper of a particular vehicle; however, this is not accurate. The registered keeper will be the name of the individual within the V5 document, also known as a V5C or logbook. This document records the registered keeper(s) of the vehicle which can either be a person or a business who registers and taxes the vehicle, this does not necessarily mean the owner. Although the registered keeper will not necessarily be the owner, they are to assume legal responsibility for the vehicle and will be the one to receive correspondence from the DVLA and/or police if a traffic offence has been committed. It is then their responsibility to identify who the driver was.
Service Upon the Registered Keeper
The law requires that a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) is sent to the registered keeper of the vehicle within 14 days of the alleged offence. If the NIP is not received within the 14-day time frame, then this could potentially amount to a defence and an individual may be exempt from prosecution for the alleged offence.
There are however exemptions to the 14-day rule, such as cases involving foreign–registered vehicles or matters where an offence could not reasonably be expected to be detected within 14 days.
What Happens if You Do Not Confirm the Identity of The Driver
If you receive a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) and fail to confirm the identity of the driver, there can be legal consequences:
- Failure to Provide Driver Information Charge: In most cases, the NIP will include a requirement for you to provide information about the driver at the time of the alleged offence within a specified timeframe, this is typically 28 days. If you do not comply with this requirement, you could potentially be charged with the offence of “Failing to Provide Driver Information.”
- Penalties: Failing to provide driver information is a separate offence and can result in penalties such as fines and the endorsement of 6 penalty points on your licence.
- Further legal proceedings: The endorsement of 6 penalty points will be of particular concern to new drivers who will be subject to revocation of their licence, this may require attendance at Court. Similarly, those with an already significant number of points on their licence may face the gloomy prospect of attending Court particularly if a further 6 points place them in danger of the “totting up procedure” ultimately resulting in a driving ban of at least 6 months.
It is crucial to take NIPs seriously and respond within the stipulated time frame. If you are unsure about how to proceed, have any doubts, or believe there are exceptional circumstances that prevent you from providing driver information within the specified time frame, it is essential to seek legal advice from a motoring law specialist who can advise you on the process and ensure that you handle the situation appropriately.
Verbal Notice of Intended Prosecution
The alternative to receiving a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) is a Verbal Notice of Intended Prosecution, this typically occurs in situations where an individual has been stopped by the police and a police officer verbally informs a driver of an alleged traffic offence at the time of the incident. For example, if you are doing 130 mph on the motorway and are stopped by a police officer.
This verbal notice will serve as a preliminary warning or indication that the driver may be prosecuted for an offence of speeding. The police officer at the time would normally caution the driver for the alleged offence and explain that they will be reported. If this occurs, you should then expect a conditional offer, fixed penalty notices or summons to attend court. However, the expected outcome will vary depending on the level of your speed.
If you receive a verbal notice and do not receive any subsequent paperwork in the days to come, it is important to consult with legal advice to ensure you handle the situation appropriately as this can vary depending on the specific circumstances.
Evidence That You Were the Driver
To be convicted for an offence of speeding, there must be evidence that you were the driver of the vehicle. You cannot therefore be convicted if you were not the driver.
The identity of the driver is either established at the point a driver is stopped by the police or when a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) has been completed specifying your details and confirming your identity; this is done by either nominating yourself or being nominated by the registered keeper of the vehicle.
If you believe that you were not the driver at the time of the alleged offence, you can challenge the charges by providing evidence that someone else was driving the vehicle. This might involve demonstrating an alibi or proving that the vehicle was stolen or used without your consent.
It’s usually at this stage where individuals are tempted to be creative and offer details of an innocent party, a person who resides abroad or a phantom individual. The consequences of choosing to go down this path will end in a tragic outcome and could result in you being charged with a separate offence of Perverting the Course of Justice which is likely to result in imprisonment.
The media has reported many examples of cases to establish why this is not a bright idea. Readers may be familiar with the case of Labour MP Fiona Onasanya who received 3 months imprisonment for providing false driver details to avoid receiving penalty points. The consequences of her actions were severe and served as a reminder that providing false information undermines the justice system, and if caught the penalties will be severe. This bodes the question, why put everything at stake for the sake of penalty points or a driving ban?
Whilst you cannot be convicted if the police have failed to identify you as the driver, this is not a free pass to cause them to go on a fishing expedition by claiming that it was a visiting friend from outer Mongolia. Should you find yourself in the unfortunate position of receiving a NIP and feel tempted – don’t. Instead, pick up the phone and give us a call so that we can discuss your circumstances in detail and advise on how to approach your case.
What are the National Speed Limits
In the United Kingdom, the speed limits have been carefully set to match the road design and conditions to ensure safe travel for all. The legal speed limits are therefore as follows:
- Built-Up Areas (e.g., Cities and Towns): The speed limit is usually 30 miles per hour unless otherwise indicated. Some residential areas might have lower limits set at 20 miles per hour, so be sure to watch for signs.
- Single Carriageway Roads: On single-lane roads without a physical barrier between the lanes, the speed limit is typically 60 miles per hour.
- Dual Carriageway Roads: For roads with two or more lanes in each direction, the speed limit is usually 70 miles per hour. Be aware that some dual carriageways might have lower speed limits, so watch for signs.
- Motorways: The speed limit on motorways is generally 70 miles per hour for cars and light vehicles. However, it is becoming frequently common for motorway sections to have variable speed limits displayed on electronic signs, which should be followed, whilst the sign may only be temporary for that section of the road, it will be no excuse to assert you thought the limit was 70 miles per hour. All signs must be adhered to.
- Speed Limits for Different Vehicles: It’s important to note that different speed limits may apply to specific types of vehicles, such as heavy goods vehicles, buses, or towing a trailer. Be sure to adhere to the posted speed limits for your specific vehicle type
Always pay attention to speed limit signs and be mindful of changing conditions when on the roads.
As a qualified licence holder, knowledge of the national speed limit and required speed limit in built-up areas and on dual carriageways is one of the basic facts you will have acquired as a learner driver. It will therefore be no defence to claim you were not aware of the speed limit on the road, as a responsible driver, the onus is on you to be up to date on the law.
The Speed Limit in Wales
Given Wales is part of the United Kingdom, the speed limits are generally the same. However, since 17th September 2023, the Welsh Government initiated a change in legislation where the speed limit of 30mph in built-up areas has now been reduced to 20mph. This now means, that if you find yourself visiting the Land of The Red Dragon and are driving in an area where there are street lights, the speed limit is 20mph unless there is signage stating a different speed.
What Was the Legal Speed Limit at the Time and what was Your Alleged Speed
It is imperative to know what the legal speed limit was at the time of the alleged offence and what your alleged speed was to establish how far over you are and where you fall on the sentence guidelines. This is because the Sentencing Council provide the Courts with guidelines to adhere to and the level of your speed will therefore determine what penalty you can expect. Whilst going over the limit by a few mph can attract 3 or more penalty points, in the more extreme cases, where an individual is grossly in excess of the legal speed limit, disqualification from driving can be expected. The Courts have guidelines to apply a disqualification period between 7 – 56 days, however, in the more serious cases, the Courts also have the discretion to go above the 56-day period and there are cases where individuals have been disqualified from driving for at least 6 months.
Adequate Signage Defence
Adequate signage can sometimes be used as a defence for speeding if it can be demonstrated that the signage was unclear or misleading, leading to a driver’s unintentional violation of the speed limit. However, the effectiveness of this defence may vary on the specific circumstances of the case. It is therefore important to consult with a legal expert for advice tailored to your situation.
Does the Police Have a Strong Case
One way of defending an allegation of speeding is to challenge the evidence presented by the prosecution. The prosecution must prove that you were driving at a speed exceeding the legal limit. If they cannot provide sufficient evidence to support their claim, the case may be dismissed.
To prove a case of speeding, the police will usually need to establish, the following elements:
- Speeding Offence: They must demonstrate that the vehicle was exceeding the posted speed limit or driving too fast for the road conditions.
- Identity of the Driver: The police need to identify the driver at the time of the offence, which might involve photographic evidence from speed cameras or eye-witness accounts.
- Evidence: They should provide evidence to support the allegation, such as speed camera images, video footage, or the testimony of a police officer who witnessed the offence.
- Proper Equipment and Calibration: It’s essential that any speed detection equipment used, like speed cameras or radar guns, was correctly calibrated and maintained.
- Adherence to Legal Procedures: The police must follow correct legal procedures when issuing a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) and any subsequent court proceedings.
It’s worth noting that the specific requirements and processes may vary depending on the circumstances and location, and whilst the driver has the right to challenge the evidence in court. If you are facing a speeding charge, it’s advisable to consult with a legal professional for guidance on your specific case as the assessment of a strong case will require the expertise of a lawyer.
Speed Camera Calibration Issues
Insufficient evidence could also include issues with speed detection equipment, calibration, or improper operation of the equipment.
Challenging the calibration of speed cameras as a defence against an offence of speeding typically involves demonstrating that the camera was not functioning correctly or was not properly calibrated at the time it recorded your alleged speed.
An effective defence on this basis will likely involve obtaining calibration records and maintenance logs for the specific camera in question. These records should show that the camera was regularly calibrated and functioning properly.
In addition, given we will not be experts in speed camera calibration, the instruction of an expert witness will be likely for evidence to be testified in Court.
It may also be possible to obtain evidence to suggest that the camera was malfunctioning or giving inaccurate readings, however, whilst the camera technology can be investigated, common sense must also be applied. If there are any issues with miscalibration it is likely the camera would be picking up cars for speeding in the thousands, this would ring alarm bells, particularly if there is a spate of a high number of vehicles being issued with notices for speeding from one particular camera. The police are likely to be astute to this issue and investigate any such happenings.
Ultimately, it should be kept in mind that the effectiveness of this defence can vary depending on the specific circumstances, it’s, therefore, crucial to consult with a legal professional who specialises in traffic law to determine the best course of action for your case.
Obtaining Expert Legal Advice
Facing a speeding charge in the UK does not necessarily mean you have to accept the penalties without a fight. There are various defences available, and the outcome of your case may depend on factors such as evidence, legal procedures, and the circumstances surrounding the alleged offence. It’s crucial to seek legal advice if you find yourself in this situation, as a qualified solicitor can help you navigate the complexities of the legal system and mount a strong defence. Remember that traffic laws and regulations are subject to change, so always consult with a motoring law specialist regarding defences against speeding charges in the UK.
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