Employee drivers - be aware of the no insurance statutory defence
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.
B consulted Blake Morgan's Driver Defence team as he had received a postal requisition returnable before Newcastle-under-Lyme Magistrates' Court alleging one count of using a motor vehicle without insurance.
B had been stopped by police driving a motor car southbound on the M6. The driving of the vehicle had attracted the attention of Staffordshire Police as the vehicle was not shown as having insurance cover on the insurance database. The owner and keeper of the vehicle was B's employer and police enquiries revealed that there was no insurance cover in place in regard to third party risks.
B's employer maintained that this was due to an oversight. The vehicle was within a fleet of vehicles operated by the employer and due to an administrative error, the insurance cover had not been renewed for this particular vehicle.
At the time of the stop check in addition to B as the driver there were three fellow employees being carried as passengers together with their personal effects and some items of the employer's work equipment. Accordingly, at the material time B was driving in the course of his employment in accordance with the instructions that he had been given by his employer. When the vehicle was entrusted to B he specifically queried whether he was insured to drive the vehicle and the employer had assured him that he was insured to drive. On the strength of that assurance B was prepared to drive the vehicle.
How our Driver Defence solicitors helped
Barry Culshaw, a Consultant and Road Traffic Specialist within the Driver Defence team, advised B as to his plea. B was advised to tender a not guilty plea and to advance at trial the statutory defence afforded by section 143 (3) of the Road Traffic Act 1988. In advancing that defence B had to prove on the balance of probabilities three elements, namely:
- That the vehicle he was driving did not belong to him and was not in his possession under a contract of hiring or of loan;
- That he was using the vehicle in the course of his employment; and
- That he neither knew nor had reason to believe that there was not in force in relation to the vehicle such a policy of insurance or security as is mentioned in section 143 (1) of the 1988 Act.
Pursuant to Barry's advice B advanced the statutory defence at trial and was found not guilty by the justices sitting at Cannock Magistrates' Court. B was relieved at the outcome as in the event of conviction he was facing a blemish on his clean driving record which could have involved a significant fine and endorsement of the driving record with six to eight penalty points or a discretionary period of disqualification.
The case illustrates that all employees who face allegations of no insurance whilst driving their employer's vehicles should be aware of the statutory defence. The case further illustrates that motorists facing allegations of this nature should ensure that they seek specialist legal advice.