Posted on 14/05/2013
What is a totter? A person is described as a totter when he or she reaches 12 or more penalty points on their driving licence within a 3 year period. The law states that anybody reaching this is automatically disqualified for a minimum period of 6 months.
A recent report from the Institute of Advanced Motorists has found that more than 8,000 motorists reaching 12 or more penalty points are still legally allowed to drive and argue that these drivers should be taken from the road and that tighter practices should be used by the courts to enforce this.
Many will agree that this law is in place to maintain and encourage road safety and quite rightly so. However, if we dig further into the reasoning behind the offending and the times between each offence being committed, they are not always as serious as they first appear. More often than not, these offenders are not prolific offenders that simply flout the law intentionally.
For example, a typical ‘totter’ would be somebody who has been caught speeding marginally over the limit on four occasions in a 3 year period. You might think that is a lot of speeding offences but these people are often people who either drive for a living or spend a large proportion of their working week on the road driving up and down the country, which in turn increases their chances of exceeding the speed limit. There is no excuse for speeding and anybody that does speed is breaking the law and should be punished although is it really fair to say that every single person who finds themselves in the ‘totting’ position is disqualified from driving for a minimum of 6 months? I think not and this is why the courts have the power not to disqualify if exceptional hardship can be found.
Exceptional hardship arises when hardship would be caused not just to the offender but also to a third party if the offender were to be disqualified from driving. A classic example to this would be somebody who drives for a living and without their driving licence they would lose their livelihood. Not just the offender would suffer as a result of this loss but the whole family that he or she financially supports would suffer also.
Yes the courts should disqualify those that have no regard for the law but it is certainly right for the courts not to disqualify in certain circumstances when exceptional hardship arises. Not every totter is a dangerous prolific offender that sets out to disregard the law, which is why the law provides the courts with the power not to disqualify!
Posted on 05/04/2013
It has been heavily reported in this week’s media that footballer Carlos Tevez has pleaded guilty to offences of driving whilst disqualified and driving with no insurance. Both offences are serious to any driver, which leads to the question of “Is it really worth taking the risk of driving whilst disqualified?”.
The usual ways of detecting such offences are when police stop a vehicle and undertake relevant checks on the vehicle and the driver. With the use of the Automatic Vehicle Recognition systems now fitted to most police vehicles, when a vehicle is detected with something showing on the legality of the vehicle, the police are automatically alerted to this and will simply stop the vehicle. This means that drivers do not actually have to do something to be stopped!
The consequences of driving whilst disqualified varies depending on the circumstances on the offence although unlike the majority of motoring offences, driving whilst disqualified is an arrestable offence which means anybody suspected of committing the offence would be arrested at the roadside and taken into custody at the police station. Following arrival at the police station the usual procedures of being searched, having your photograph and fingerprints taken as well as providing DNA and being placed in a police cell is an experience most people will find daunting but particularly for those people who are not familiar with the whole police station process.
The penalties being imposed for such an offence do vary although the offence will almost always carry a further period of disqualification as well as a fine of up to £5000. In addition to this, the court can impose a period of imprisonment, which can often be the case when the offence has been committed on more than one occasion. In cases where the court does not impose custody, they would impose a community order such as community service, which was the case for Mr Tevez.
Each case is considered on its own merits and each case will therefore be dealt with differently depending on its particular circumstances and the individual offender. It is evident from the recent sentence imposed on Mr Tevez that a carefully prepared case with a specialist motoring lawyer can result in custody being avoided. Despite the penalty imposed in that particular case, it was noted within sentencing that the offence is regarded as very serious and one which should not be repeated!
In answer to the above titled question of “Is driving whilst disqualified really worth it?” the answer is a clear definite no!
Posted on 26/03/2013
On 20 February 2013 I successfully persuaded Warwickshire Magistrates to reopen the case of a motorist who had been sentenced in 2012 to 6 penalty points and £650 fine and costs for speeding on the M42 motorway between Junctions 7 and 9.
Police decided to scrap all pending prosecutions for speeding on the M42 when it was revealed that Advanced Motorway Indicators (AMIs) introduced there between 2006 and 2009 were not traffic signs as prescribed by law because the font used to display variable speed limits on the electronic signs contravened the guidelines set out by the Department of Transport. Warwickshire and West Midlands Police also turned a blind eye to drivers caught between November 8, 2012, when the issue came to light, and November 27, when the Secretary of State issued an ‘authorisation’ which allowed a rule change to ensure the signs were legal.
Our client contacted me after I uncovered the issue last year through a Freedom of Information request. I argued that he should be dealt with the same as motorists who had pleaded not guilty from the outset, who had had their cases discontinued. Although he had originally pleaded guilty, the court agreed to reopen the conviction and the prosecutor agreed that it was not in the Public Interest to pursue the case to trial and his case was dismissed.
The next two motorists who have instructed me will have the applications to reopen their cases heard at Warwickshire Magistrate’s Court on 10 April 2013.
If you are a motorist who has been convicted in these circumstances on the M42, M40, M6, M1, M20 or M25 then get in touch with the Just Motor Law team to see how we can help you.
Posted on 14/03/2013
Thousands of drivers could have their motorway speeding convictions overturned - because speed limit signs used the wrong font.
The numbers on the signs were too tall and too narrow to be visible to motorists, according to the Crown Prosecution Service. Some lawyers and traffic consultants are calling for penalties imposed during the six years the signs were displayed to be quashed.
They say the fines are not legally enforceable while The Highways Agency, responsible for the signs, said it believed there was no problem with the numbers. The signs were on the M42 between junctions 3a to seven and junctions seven to nine.
The problem was discovered by solicitor Matt Reynolds. Puzzled why prosecutions for speeding on the M42 were being dropped without explanation, he used the Freedom of Information Act. Warwickshire police then revealed that Advanced Motorway Indicators, introduced on the M42 between 2006 and 2009, were technically illegal because the font used to display variable speed limits did not match those prescribed by the Department of Transport.
It was decided to scrap all pending prosecutions, and also let off drivers caught after November 8 last year, when the issue came to light. However, thousands of motorists had racked up convictions and fines since 2006.
Richard Bentley, a traffic management consultant and former police officer, told the BBC that previous speeding fines, points and driving bans should be reconsidered: 'There should be a situation where cases are opened in the magistrates court to have the cases reheard and the convictions quashed,' he said.
'If there are no traffic signs the Act of Parliament prohibits the conviction and these are definitely not traffic signs.'
Warwickshire Police's camera enforcement unit manager Gary Hollis told the BBC: 'Motorists who have already had their cases dealt with by the courts, conditional offers of fixed penalty or speed awareness courses are advised to take independent advice regarding how this affects their individual cases.'
The Department for Transport has since granted permission for all the signs to be in use by the Highways Agency.
Warwickshire Police started enforcing variable speed limits again on those sections of the M42 on New Year's Day.
Posted on 12/02/2013
Just Motor Law solicitor Matt Reynolds was interviewed by BBC Radio about a motorist who was banned from driving for the 43rd time after racking up 218 offences.
Matt told BBC Radio WM (West Midlands): “It may seem alarming that someone who has been banned so many times still has the opportunity to drive, but the courts believe in rehabilitation.”
Matt also said that a motor law solicitor’s job is about getting the best outcome for a client, often by strongly presenting mitigating circumstances.
To hear the interview click below
Posted on 28/01/2013
Most people will be aware that it is an offence to drive or be in charge of a motor vehicle on a road or public place while over the limit due to alcohol. We all know what a road is but do you know what the courts class as a “public place”?
In the past, the courts have decided that many different areas can be classed as a public place for the purposes of this offence. Examples include a pub car park (but potentially only during licensing hours), a private field to which the public were temporarily invited to watch racing, a caravan park and an area accessible to aircraft at one of the terminals at Heathrow Airport.
The general test applied by the court in determining whether where you are driving in a “public place” is to establish whether the relevant area is open to the general public or whether there is sufficient segregation or selection of the people who can enter that area, to convert them from members of the general public to a special class. For example, the car park of a private members club, where there is no evidence of public use of the car park is not a “public place”.
The latest case to deal with this issue came before the High Court recently when a man successfully appealed his conviction for drink driving on the basis that the university campus was not a “public place”. Although visitors as well as residents and university staff had access, all visitors were required to leave the campus by 12.30am. The driving had taken place at 5am and there had been no evidence put before the court that the general public had access at this time of day.
Be warned however, the court took the trouble to point out that in many cases evidence would be available to show that a campus was accessible to the public to satisfy the relevant test that it is a “public place”.
Posted on 23/01/2013
A leading motor law specialist has warned that millions of drivers could be facing £1,000 fines without even realising they are breaching their licence conditions.
According to Natali Farrell from Just Motor Law, up to two million drivers could be hit by the fines for unwittingly breaking the law, with offences ranging from failing to update their photo-card driving licences or not changing the named address when they move house, to forgetting to alter the name on their licence after marriage.
Now Natali is urging drivers to check that they have fulfilled their legal motoring obligations before the law catches up with them.
“Most drivers believe that as long as they have insurance and a valid driving licence, then they are operating within the law,” she says.
“However, keeping your driving licence administration up-to-date is an important part of a driver’s legal requirements, and failure to do so can prove costly in more ways than one.
“Updating your photograph, for example, not only means you’re less likely to be in trouble with the law, it also prevents driving licence impersonation.”
But research from LV Car Insurance revealed that nearly a fifth of drivers they interviewed were unaware of their car licence’s expiry date.
One in ten admitted they had not renewed their licence in more than 10 years.
Natali said: “It may seem like an onerous task, but these things are simple to do. Renewing your photo, for example, can be done online if you have a valid UK passport which has been issued in the past five years. Most of the changes are either free or cost very little to make. However, ignoring them could end up costing you dear.”
Posted on 23/01/2013
A leading motor law specialist has warned that failing to clear your car thoroughly prior to driving could result in a fine.
Natali Farrell of Just Motor Law says that although it may be a tiring task of clearing the snow from your windscreen and windows before a journey, it’s a task that should not be avoided.
The Highway Code states that when driving in adverse weather conditions you must, by law, be able to see out of every glass panel in your vehicle. This means that snow should be cleared not just from the driver’s side of the windscreen but from every window, including the side windows.
Failure to adhere to the above can result in a fine from the police for not having a clear and unobstructed view ahead. No penalty points would be imposed for this offence although if a driver did not have a clear and unobstructed view ahead, he/she could cause harm to other road users which could then result in a more serious offence of driving without due care and attention or in some cases, dangerous driving. These more serious offences carry severe penalties such penalty points, disqualification from driving and in the much more serious circumstances, a custodial sentence!
When its freezing weather and you just want to get into your car to get to your destination, think of the above and make sure you take those extra few minutes to fully defrost your vehicle. It's worth it in the long run!
Posted on 22/12/2012
A motoring law expert is calling for speeding penalty points and driving bans to be overturned after it emerged that speed camera warning signs on one of the UK’s busiest stretches of motorway featured the wrong shaped numbers.
Police halted prosecutions against speeding motorists when the technical hitch on the M42 overhead gantry signs near Birmingham Airport came to light. Enforcement was immediately suspended and outstanding cases were dropped by Warwickshire Police.
However, motorists who had already pleaded guilty to speeding on the affected stretch of the M42, close to where it merges with the M6, between October 2011 and November 2012 now face a possible legal battle to have their conviction overturned.
The technical hitch over the electronic variable speed signs was revealed by police to motoring solicitor Matt Reynolds who used the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) to establish facts about the speed cameras.
Mr Reynolds of motor law specialists Just Motor Law said: “The Department of Transport is clear that signs that do not strictly adhere to the rules are not lawful and the speed limit may be unenforceable and lead to failed prosecutions. In their response to me Warwickshire Police confirmed that they and the CPS suspended enforcement and scrapped prosecutions while the issue was rectified.
“In the circumstances it is only fair and consistent that all speeding convictions associated with these speed cameras during the 13-month period when the wrong-shaped numbers were displayed are overturned. Had motorists known at the time that the signs were unlawful they may have reasonably contested the allegation.
“For most of those motorists who accepted the police evidence at face value it would have meant a £60 fixed penalty fine and between 3 and 6 points on their licence, but for some it may have led to a driving ban with potentially life-changing implications such as losing your job.”
In the FOI response letter to Mr Reynolds Warwickshire Police revealed: “Warwickshire Police Camera Enforcement Unit became aware, via West Midlands CPS (Crown Prosecution Service), on 8 November 2012 that the shape of some (but not all) of the numbers on the Advanced Motorway Indicators (AMIs) were not precisely as prescribed.
“As soon as this information was received Warwickshire Police Camera Enforcement Unit took the view that it would be right to suspend further enforcement whilst the issue was put beyond doubt, rather than continue to issue any further fixed penalties or summonses.
“The CPS and the Police took the view that it would be wrong to continue with outstanding cases whilst enforcement was suspended.
“It is the view of Warwickshire Police that the issue has no impact on cases dealt with by guilty plea at court or upon conditional offers of fixed penalty which have been accepted and paid or upon speed awareness courses accepted and attended. Matters which went further to trial or proof in absence are the responsibility of the Crown Prosecution Service.”
Police have not revealed any more details about the wrong-shaped numbers or if any other motorway signs across the UK are similarly affected.
For more information see our article that has been published on the Mail online website by clicking here
Posted on 20/12/2012
Motoring law specialists are warning young drivers about risking their licence, their job and their reputation this Christmas and New Year for the sake of a few drinks.
Figures show that under-25s were the worst offenders for drink or drug driving in last year’s month-long festive clampdown.
This year, economic factors could see record numbers of young motorists choosing to drive home after a night out with work colleagues or friends to save cash. Some will knowingly drive while over the limit and others will misjudge their alcohol intake or its effect.
Natali Farrell of Just Motor Law, whose experts have compiled a free download guide addressing the frequently asked legal questions on drink driving, said: “Sometimes it is easy to be swept along with your friends and make a snap decision that has far reaching, negative and expensive consequences.
“A recent survey revealed that a quarter of drivers, especially 18 to 24 year olds, are concerned that they will be tempted or feel pressurised to have ‘one for the road’ at parties.
“The risks are high. A conviction for drink driving often costs a person their job, and of course it can cost lives too. Some police forces are even naming and shaming drink drivers motorists this year.
“Our advice is to avoid temptation by planning ahead and discussing travel arrangements with family, friends and work colleagues in advance.
“Unless you are confident of not drinking any alcohol at all, arrange your lift home with a non drinking and full licence holding colleague, book a taxi and team up with others to share the expense, or sweet talk mum or dad or a partner to collect you.
“Planning ahead avoids falling foul to peer pressure so you can focus on enjoying the festivities rather than waking up in a police cell facing criminal charges, the loss of your licence and possibly your job too.”
Up to 200,000 motorists are breath-tested in UK-wide crackdowns each year and around 7,000 arrests made for suspected drink driving or for being under the influence of drugs.
Just Motor Law’s free guide ‘Drink Driving Offences’ can be downloaded free, simply visit www.justmotorlaw.co.uk
Posted on 25/10/2012
It has recently been reported that only 1 in 6 speed cameras in England and Wales are digital and that if the existing traditional ‘wet film’ cameras were replaced by modern, more reliable digital ones, the number of crashes occurring on Britain’s roads would decrease.
Although both types of cameras in operation produce equally accurate results, a traditional camera is operated by a ‘wet film’ and as one would expect, it relies on the film being replaced in order to continue recording offences. However, the modern cameras are in operation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and therefore is will constantly monitor incidents.
As specialist motoring solicitors in defending speeding allegations, we have defended drivers accused of speeding, who have been recorded on both the traditional and the digital cameras. We have seen no difference in terms of digital cameras being more accurate as we win cases for cases caught on both types of cameras.
What can be commented upon is the way in which individual police forces operate the equipment and how they document its process to evidence the fact that they have detected somebody speeding. The speed cameras can allege a speeding offence is committed although without the relevant records/evidence to show how the speed reading was detected, the police may not have produced an accurate reading.
Whether increasing Government spending on replacing traditional cameras with digital cameras will reduce crashes is unclear at this time, although if all cameras were operated effectively and evidence correctly recorded, such a heavy spend may not be necessary at all.