Christmas should be a time for catching up with our loved ones and enjoying ourselves. Philip Hatvany, road traffic specialist
solicitor discusses how for the driver it can all too easily become a nightmare.
The familiar sight of cars being filled with Christmas presents and stuffed with growing families is once more blessing our roads. As relatives are becoming increasingly dispersed around the country people are having to make longer trips to meet up. This often involves travelling long distances along unfamiliar roads, where speed limits can fluctuate. All too easily one can find one has broken the speed limit without even realising it.
Meanwhile closer to home fixed speed cameras which have been idle in the Bath and Bristol area are under discussion as to whether they should be turned back on. The Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset Police, Nick Gargan, is calling for fixed speed cameras in his force area to be reactivated. This is after the cameras were shut down following budget cuts two years ago. He has also revealed a scheme being explored to fit police motorbikes with speed cameras.
Most times people caught speeding do not even realise this until a ‘Notice of Intended Prosecution’ (a document warning of the possibility of prosecution) arrives through their door. It should be borne in mind that the law states that the Notice of Intended Prosecution must be sent by the police within 14 days of the date of the speeding offence either to the driver or the registered keeper. Failing to comply with this 14 day rule is a concrete defence irrespective of whether the person was speeding or not.
If you were not speeding then you will need to consult a solicitor to find out why you have been falsely accused and potentially to go to trial.
If you were speeding and the speed recorded against you is just over the speed limit, then you may be offered the speed awareness course. If your speed is slightly higher then you will receive an offer of a fixed penalty which carries three penalty points. If it is higher still or you already have nine penalty points on your licence, then you will receive a postal requisition asking you to
attend court. In such a case if there is a danger that this matter could push your number of penalty points to 12 or more, then instructing a good solicitor is important. Normally people who incur 12 or more points are banned for at least six months, but if “exceptional hardship” can successfully be argued, then it is possible that you may keep your licence despite this.
If the speed recorded against you is very high, then the magistrates may consider forgetting about penalty points and just disqualifying you outright. Again an experienced solicitor would be important in such a case.
At Motoring Law Defence Solicitors we do not condone drink driving. However, the majority of our clients who come to us accused of driving whilst over the limit, were not even aware that they were doing so. Often they have simply misjudged the amount of alcohol they have drunk, and incorrectly believed that they were below the limit. Such misjudgements are especially common at Christmas, when the alcohol content of festive treats such as Christmas pudding and sherry trifle can be higher than people might expect. When mixed with other favourites such as chocolate liqueurs and a little festive drink, this can easily be enough to push you over the drink drive limit without you even realising.
Even people who wisely decide they will not drive at all immediately after drinking are not safe. One in five people who are convicted of drink driving are caught the morning after they have been drinking.
The police this Christmas will be carrying out their normal Christmas campaign. Last year 180 people were arrested for drink driving by Avon & Somerset Police during December as a part of Operation Tonic.
If found guilty of drink driving the penalties can be severe. The minimum driving ban that can be imposed is 12 months, and a prison sentence can even be ordered of up to six months. However, the police have to follow very strict procedures at the police station, and if they fail to do this, then this will often amount to a defence.
Even if it transpires that you do not have a defence, the magistrates will want to hear your mitigation and good representation is therefore vital.
At Motoring Law Defence we specialise in representing clients in relation to all motoring matters at court and at the police station. We are especially skilled at saving peoples licences. If you would like to talk to one of our solicitors about a motoring matter please telephone 01225 442925 for free initial advice.
3 Queen Square Bath, BA1 2HG
T: 01225 442925 www.motoringlawdefence.com Motoring Law Defence is a division of Mowbray Woodwards Solicitors
DECEMBER 2013 | THEBATHMAGAZINE 61