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The Myths about Motoring Offences

This article appeared in the August 2009 edition of Westside magazine and the August 2009 edition of First for Business.

We’ve all heard them. Someone down the pub tells you that you people on ebay are advertising that they will take your penalty points for you for £500 (they’ll take your money for sure and you may end up charged with perjury), and Jeremy Clarkson willmotoring law myths show you on Top Gear that you can outrun a speed camera if you drive fast enough (if you can get the Mondeo diesel up to 171mph!).

Unfortunately these urban myths can do more harm than good when an uninformed person facing a driving ban attempts to defend themselves in court with little more than bar stool hearsay. Here, David Staniforth, defence lawyer of over 18 years experience with Norrie Waite & Slater solicitors addresses the most common myths surrounding motoring offences.

  1. Doctoring your number plates. There are ‘magic’ sprays and reflective number plates on the market which claim to render your plates unreadable to speed cameras. Tests have shown that none of these actually work.
  2. Pay over the fine to avoid the points. This is based on the claim that if you pay £1 more than the fine when caught speeding, the DVLA cannot award the points until you cash the refund cheque and therefore complete the transaction. The theory is that you simply don’t cash the refund cheque. Again this is untrue. Her Majesty’s Courts Service deals with the administration of fines and will ensure that attempting this trick will not enable you to slip through the net.
  3. Don’t say who was driving. This was a popular one based on the idea that it was a breach of human rights to force you to disclose the identity of the driver. Unfortunately you do not have a right to silence in these circumstances. The Road Traffic Act 1988 requires that the registered keeper must identify the driver. You could face 6 points and a fine of up to £1000 for failing to identify. However, a caveat to this is that if you can show the courts that you did not know who was driving and exercised ‘reasonable diligence’ to find out, then you may have a possible defence.
  4. A speed camera must be painted yellow and be clearly visible. This is not always true. Cameras operated by local safety camera partnerships have to abide by strict visibility rules but cameras operated as part of police speed checks do not. They are usually signposted but the cameras themselves do not have to meet the same visibility requirements.

There are, however, genuine defences against some motoring offences. “Defending motoring offences is an area of law where you should not try to go it alone in court. Always seek specialist legal advice”, says David. “It is possible to have penalties reduced, or even for driving bans not to be imposed, if your solicitor can show that you had special reasons for committing an offence, or than the imposition of a disqualification would cause exceptional hardship to you or your dependents”.

I’ll just leave you with one of the best anecdotes I heard recently. A man tried to beat the breathalyser by putting copper coins in his mouth; another urban myth for beating the system. He was taken to hospital by the police, having swallowed the coins which lodged in his windpipe. He was later acquitted as the breath sample was tainted by gastric fluid. Somehow, I don’t think it was worth it.

David can be contacted at Norrie Waite & Slater solicitors (72 Queen Street, Sheffield) on 0114 2765015 for advice on all types of motoring offences.

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