Success for client accused of failure to identify driver

Posted by Tim Williamson 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

Miss G recently instructed Blake Morgan to assist her appeal, which was heard at Oxford Crown Court, against a conviction for a motoring offence in the Thames Valley.

Miss G had been prosecuted for an offence of failing to identify the driver of a motor vehicle when required to do so, which was contrary to Section 172(3) Road Traffic Act 1988. However she was adamant that she was not guilty.

The police have statutory powers to request details of the driver of a motor vehicle where that driver is alleged to have committed certain motoring offences. The vehicle that was alleged to have been driven in excess of the speed limit was a 'works vehicle' and could have been driven by a large number of individuals.

Miss G had been employed as a security guard in the Thames Valley. A vehicle commonly used as a pool car had been detected exceeding the speed limit and her employer had received a notice of intended prosecution / request for driver details. It had nominated her as being the driver and so the police sent her a request for driver details form.

Miss G wrote back to Thames Valley Police indicating that because it was a 'works vehicle' she could not be sure who the driver was. She asked for a photograph in an attempt to shed light on matters but it proved inconclusive. She then filled in the form nominating herself as being the driver but she also placed an asterisk next to the signature section of the form indicating that she was not 100% sure of who the driver was.

Thames Valley Police refused to accept that as a nomination as to the identity of the driver and so issued proceedings in the Magistrates Court in Oxfordshire for the offence of failing to identify driver details contrary to Section 172. Miss G had mistakenly believed that when she responded to the summons by pleading guilty via post she was pleading guilty to the offence of speeding. She did not realise that she was pleading guilty to another offence.

She sought to appeal against her conviction to Oxford Crown Court and turned to Blake Morgan for advice and assistance. Technically Miss G could not appeal the conviction as such because she had pleaded guilty. Blake Morgan advised seeking to have the case re-opened so that the issue of plea could be re-visited.

Miss G was not the keeper of the vehicle. It is important to be clear that the information that one must give to the police differs depending on whether or not one is the keeper.

If the recipient of a request for driver details is the keeper then there is an obligation to give the police the information they require i.e. the recipient must identify the driver of the vehicle. It is a defence for a motorist who is the keeper to show that it was not reasonably practicable for him/her to name the driver and that he/she could not with reasonable diligence have ascertained the identity of the driver.

However, a person who is not the keeper need 'only' give the police such information that he/she is able to give, which might lead to the driver being identified.  In other words in order to convict Miss G the Crown Prosecution Service had to prove that she had additional information that she could have given but did not do so.  Miss G maintained that she could not be sure who the driver was and had no more information to give.

How our Driver Defence team helped

Blake Morgan wrote to the Crown Prosecution Service outlining the issues in the case and the legal position of someone as to what a motorist like Miss G who is not the keeper of a vehicle is required to do upon receiving a request for driver details. 

The Crown Prosecution Service agreed with Blake Morgan's analysis and having reviewed the file, decided not to oppose the appeal.  Accordingly, the Judge sitting at Oxford Crown Court re-opened the case, Miss G pleaded not guilty and the Crown Prosecution Service offered no evidence.  Miss G was awarded her costs in respect of these proceedings and was delighted with the outcome.

Tim Williamson, the head of Blake Morgan's Driver Defence team, commented: "This case goes to show the importance of carefully considering whether or not one is the keeper of the vehicle.  The obligation differs depending on whether or not the person is the keeper and so it is important that specialist advice is sought at an early stage."

About the Author

Tim is a leading Criminal and Regulatory lawyer, who defends businesses and individuals under investigation by the police and regulatory bodies and when accused of criminal offences.

Tim Williamson
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023 8085 7372

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