Driving without insurance

Posted by Barry Culshaw on
Blake Morgan's Driver Defence team is the leading team of specialist road traffic lawyers in the South of England.  We have been recognised by legal directory Chambers and Partners: A Client's Guide to the Legal Profession 2017 as a Band 1 firm in this field.  Our team of specialist lawyers travel all the country to help motorists facing a driving ban or having penalty points put on their licence. Our work has taken us to Magistrates and Crown Courts all over the country.  Many of our cases have reached the Higher Courts. 

The case

Blake Morgan's Driver Defence team was consulted by G, who faced one count of using a motor vehicle without insurance. This arose out of a stop check, by an officer of Hampshire Constabulary. A search of the motor insurance database revealed that there was no third party insurance cover in place for the use of the vehicle. The defendant was prosecuted for the alleged offence. The matter was initially for hearing before Aldershot Magistrates' Court and the Crown Prosecution Service had conduct of the proceedings.

Barry Culshaw, a road traffic specialist and consultant with Blake Morgan's Driving Defence team, had conduct of the case throughout. G was in possession of a certificate of insurance which confirmed insurance cover for the vehicle at the material time. It appears that the insurer revoked insurance cover, on the basis of non-payment of the monthly premiums. G was adamant that he was unaware of the non-payment and had not received any notification from the insurer of revocation. Indeed, irrefutable evidence was adduced to show that the defendant had taxed the vehicle a mere two days before the police stop check.

How our Driver Defence team helped

In light of G's instructions, Barry advised G to tender a not guilty plea and the matter was listed for trial at Portsmouth Magistrates' Court. On the afternoon of the trial, Barry was able to have a conference with the Crown Prosecutor. Barry had alerted the Crown Prosecution Service to recent case law, which was authority for the proposition that, in such circumstance where a defendant is in possession of an insurance certificate which on the face of it covers the use of the vehicle at the material time, the burden then swings to the Crown to prove beyond reasonable doubt that G was, indeed, uninsured.

The Crown Prosecutor decided, on the afternoon of the trial, to offer no evidence against G and the count of using a motor vehicle without insurance, was dismissed. A defence costs order was granted in G's favour. The issue that appeared uppermost in the Crown Prosecutor's mind was the fact that G had taxed the vehicle a mere two days before the stop check.

This case does demonstrate that the burden is not necessarily on a defendant to prove during the trial, on a balance of probabilities, that the defendant was insured to use a particular motor vehicle, on a particular date. Long standing case law has established that the burden is not on the Crown to prove uninsured use. The burden of proof on the Crown is to prove use of the motor vehicle on a road or other public place, at a particular time. The burden is then on a defendant to prove, on a balance of probabilities, that he did have a valid insurance certificate covering use of the vehicle, at the material time. However, a recent decision of the High Court, in July of this year, has now put beyond doubt that, where a defendant produces a certificate of insurance, which on the face of it is valid, the burden moves to the crown to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the scope of the use to which the vehicle was being put by the defendant, was in fact outside the terms of the policy of insurance.

In G's case, Barry was prepared to advance an argument by analogy to the High Court case that, where a defendant is in possession of an insurance certificate, which on the face of it appears to be valid and covers the use of the vehicle, at the material time, it is encumbent upon the Crown to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the certificate was invalid. The burden of proof, in such circumstances, does not create an impossible mountain for the Crown to climb in seeking to prove the case. It was open to the investigating police officer to contact the relevant insurance company, and to obtain a statement from a duly authorised representative of that company, as to revocation of the insurance certificate. Indeed, in G's case the police officer had obtained a statement from an insurance broker, but for whatever reason a decision was made not to serve this evidence, as part of the Crown's case.

The outcome

G was greatly relieved by the outcome. In the event of conviction, G was facing a fine not exceeding £5,000 and endorsement of his driving licence, with between 6 and 8 penalty points, or imposition of a discretionary period of disqualification.

About the Author

Barry Specialises in road transport law within our Driver Defence team. He represents clients facing allegations of careless/dangerous driving, driving with excess alcohol and speeding.

Barry Culshaw
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023 8085 7209

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