Accepting points for someone else? Perverting the course of justice!
Many drivers have been caught once or twice for speeding a little over the speed limit. Generally motoring offences such as this aren’t considered by many to be a ‘criminal’ offence. They are non-recordable offences and won’t appear on the Police National Computer. Some drivers are more careful than others, and we all know that once you reach 12 points in a 3 year period you face a period of disqualification.
It’s no wonder then, that in some situations, partners or family members of those caught speeding might be willing to respond to the notice of intended prosecution, and say that it was in fact them who was driving, and accept the points and a fine (or a speed awareness course) to avoid their family member losing their licence.
Doesn’t sound like such a bad thing does it?
Think again! This is perverting the course of justice! If you are found out, you would be liable to a prosecution in the Crown Court. Perverting the course of justice carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment! Not only the person falsely accepting liability, but the person who allowed this to happen, would be guilty of the offence.
It has recently been in the news that the former energy secretary and Liberal Democrat MP Chris Huhne, and his ex-wife Vicky Pryce currently both face charges for this exact offence, and are due to appear at Southwark Crown Court on 2nd March 2012. The allegation is that Ms Pryce accepted 3 points and fine for a speeding offence back in 2003, in place of her then husband Mr Huhne.
It was of course Ms Pryce who informed the Police of her and her ex-husband’s misdemeanour when she found out that he had been having an affair. It had most likely never occurred to her that by doing this she herself had owned up to the much more serious offence! Motorists often mistakenly believe that if their deception is discovered they will still only be liable to be prosecuted for the speeding ticket or a traffic signal offence.
Other common examples of perverting the course of justice in respect of motoring offences would be:
- Falsely nominating a fictitious/real person from a foreign country
- Nominating a person at an address that does not exist or is derelict
- Stating the vehicle was on a test drive and they have no details of the driver (although the vehicle has never been advertised for sale and they still own it)
- Claiming the vehicle has been cloned
- Claiming that it could be one of several people who were driving at the time and you don’t know who it was (when you do know who was driving)
- Nominating a deceased person
Of course, some of these explanations can be genuine or legitimate defences to offences.
It might seem unfair therefore, that when faced with a situation where you a served with a notice of intended prosecution and are asked whether you were the driver of the vehicle at the time of the offence, or if you weren’t the driver to give details of who the driver was, that if you are unable to give exact details of the person driving, you could find yourself being prosecuted for another offence of failing to provide details of the driver, if you are unable comply. The form clearly states that it is an offence to give false details (as we have explained).
What should you do if you genuinely don’t know who the driver was?
While it might be tempting just to get the matter ‘over and done with’ and for one person to simply accept the points and a fine, the best thing to do is to be as truthful as you can and identify to the Police any person, with contact details, who could possibly be responsible for the offence (they are unlikely to believe it was a friend’s friend from Spain who you do not know the details for!). Ask for a copy of the photograph, this may help to identify who the driver was.
Confront all the potential drivers to see if they accept the offence. If it was a strange location or time of day, you are less likely to be believed if you say you don’t know who the driver was.
If this doesn’t lend a hand, and you find yourself being prosecuted for an offence of failing to provide details of the driver, do not worry! You could have a defence as long as you have cooperated with the police and done all you can to reasonably identify the person who was driving.
It may mean attending court to explain what you have done, and there will be a reverse ‘burden of proof’…meaning that you will need to satisfy the court on ‘the balance of probabilities’ that you have done all you can.
This may seem daunting. However it is a much better situation to be in, than that of Ms Pryce and Mr Huhne! The maximum sentence if you are convicted for an offence of failing to provide details of the driver is 6 points and a fine of up to £1000.
Emery Johnson Solicitors can help you if you were ever to find yourself in such an unfortunate position, and can assist you with your correspondence to the police. You are more likely to receive a notification of ‘no further action’ if you have done all you can to assist, as we will know the best steps to take in order to try to ensure this outcome.
If you find yourself being prosecution for failing to provide details of a driver, or any other offence (including a charge of perverting the course of justice!), we have an experienced motoring offences team who will be able to provide representation at court. Contact Emery Johnson on 0116 255 4855.