What to do if you are convicted in absence….
You may be surprised to know that it is common for motorists to be convicted of offences without them going to court and sometimes even without their knowledge. The motivation behind this piece is that I have recently been trying to help a client who committed a minor speeding offence. He sent the NIP back but for whatever reason, the ticket office never received it. The case proceeded without his knowledge and he was ultimately convicted of failing to furnish information which carries 6 points as opposed to the 3 he would have received for speeding. As a “new driver”, his licence was revoked completely.
This particular client also suffers with severe anxiety and struggles to use public transport so getting a resolution quickly was important, particularly in light of Covid-19. This client had spent months of back and forth with the court trying to resolve the issue and it made me realise how many previous clients have found themselves in a similar position.
Fear not, readers- there is usually a relatively painless solution!
How Does This Happen?
Do all of you readers update your driving licence every time you move address? I expect some of you have only just realised that your address is out of date after reading this sentence! It is an easy thing to overlook and at one point, the address on my own licence was rather embarrassingly about 6 years out of date!
What about those of you that travel extensively for work? Have you ever arrived home to an unwelcome brown envelope on the doormat about a speeding offence?
And do we have some readers who live in apartment blocks without the best postal system in place? Do your letters frequently end up with your elderly neighbour who chucks them in the bin?
It’s important to be aware of the standard process that is followed and whilst this in itself can vary from case to case, I will use the most common example which is:
- A minor speeding offence is
- A notice of intended prosecution (NIP) is sent to the registered keeper of the vehicle at the address held by the DVLA;
- The registered keeper completes the NIP within 28 days and sends it back
- The driver is then sent a conditional offer of 3 points and a fine of £100
- The driver accepts the penalty
- Case closed.
I am sure all of you can identify potential problems with this sequence yourselves but the crucial factors are whether you receive what is sent to you and vice versa. If there’s a single break in the chain of communication here then problems can start to arise. It is surprisingly easy for you to be convicted of something you had no knowledge of and end up with a penalty that is either more severe or one that could have been avoided.
What Can I Do if convicted in absence?
The 2 best ways to resolve issues of this nature are as follows:
If you had no knowledge whatsoever of any proceedings taking place against you then this is the option of choice for you. The purpose of a “stat dec” is to reverse decisions that have been made without your knowledge and it effectively resets the proceedings back to the beginning so that you can deal with them properly. Any penalty will be rescinded and you can start afresh.
Reopening a Case
If you knew you’d committed an offence or you had knowledge of the proceedings but, for example, you either couldn’t attend the hearing date or didn’t know one was listed, then you can apply for the case to be reopened. This is not the same as a stat dec as it involves an application and any application can be refused so it is important to consider the basis of it and why it is within the interests of justice for the matter to be reopened. After all, if the court thinks a defendant simply couldn’t be bothered dealing with the proceedings or doesn’t have a good enough explanation for why they were convicted in absence then it’s likely to be refused.
On a final note, I would remind you all to ensure your DVLA details are up to date. Even if you never commit an offence, the DVLA can hit you with a £1000 fine if it ever comes to their attention!