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Keeping a clean licence by finding a loophole

From time to time, we see news reports about well-known people who have escaped penalties in the courts for motoring offences that would appear to have been open-and-shut cases. How do they do it, and can ordinary people evade fines, penalty points, and disqualification in the same way?

Challenging the procedure

Some people are able to challenge speeding tickets, particularly those generated by fixed speed cameras, by challenging the Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP). This has to be sent to the Registered Keeper of the vehicle within fourteen days of the alleged offence. Sometimes it's late, and this obviously constitutes a good defence. A recent example is Andrew 'Freddie' Flintoff, the cricketer, who escaped what might have been severe penalties for allegedly driving at 87 mph in a 50 mph zone, because the Notice of Intended Prosecution was issued out of time. People have also looked for inaccuracies in the details on the NIP, such as the date or the location of the camera.

Appealing against a ticket

One drawback for those considering appealing against a speeding ticket is that if it is unsuccessful, the penalties can increase dramatically - extra penalty points and increased fines as well as the legal costs; all this is intended to deter motorists from appealing without careful weighing up of the pros and cons. It works, too; only about one per cent of UK speeding tickets go to appeal. Remarkably, though, of those that do appeal, over half are successful, which suggests that if there really is a defence case to be made, and if the defendant has a lot to lose (such as their driving licence), it is worth taking the matter further.

What a lawyer can do

Taking a case to appeal is a big step, and really should not be done without legal representation. But what do the notoriously expensive lawyers do that your local solicitor can't? There are lawyers who specialise in shredding the prosecution case in the motoring courts, and it is sometimes suggested that the mere mention of their name can weaken the prosecution case. One common tactic is to demand masses of paperwork such as the calibration certificate for the speed camera, without which the case then fails.

Emotional distraction, and other defences

In another recent case, a woman driver was able to claim (through her expensive lawyer) that she was crying so hard when taken to the police station that she was unable to understand what the police officer in the case was saying to her. This tactic apparently works especially well for female drivers. Another appellant, the driver of a small and elderly car, was able to demonstrate that the vehicle was incapable of travelling at the speed alleged by the prosecution! Which invalidated the whole case. Most experts would agree, though, that the safest strategy is to drive within the legal speed limits.

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