Question I have been served with a magistrates’ court summons for a motoring offence, but I have not received a notice of intended prosecution prior to this. Does this failure to give notice to me invalidate the proceedings?
Answer It depends on the offence with which you are charged. A notice of intended prosecution has to be served on either the driver or the registered keeper of the vehicle within 14 days of the offence. In the case of the registered keeper, the notice is usually combined with a notice demanding to be informed who the driver was at the time of the offence.
Notice of intended prosecution is required only for certain offences. These are the most important ones:
- Dangerous driving;
- Driving without due care and attention;
- Inconsiderate driving;
- Failure to comply with traffic directions and signs;
- Leaving a vehicle in a dangerous position.
Even if you have been charged with one of these offences, a notice is not required if you were warned at the time of the offence of the possibility of prosecution, or if you were served with a summons within fourteen days of the actual offence.
There is another exception where it is not necessary to serve a notice of intended prosecution and that is where, ‘owing to the presence on the road of the vehicle in question, an accident occurred at the time of the offence or immediately thereafter.’
Note that the accident had to have occurred ‘owing to the presence on the road’ of the vehicle in question, so you do not have to have been directly involved in the accident. If, for example, another car swerves to avoid colliding with you because you stopped suddenly or drifted onto the wrong side of the road, and in doing so that other car collided with a lamp post, the accident occurred due to the presence of your car on the road even though you were not directly involved. Indeed, you might not even have been aware of the accident. There have been court decisions either way on this point, but the consensus seems to be that if there was a trivial accident of which you were unaware, the notice of intended prosecution would be required, whereas a more serious accident of which you had no recollection, e.g. due to amnesia, would not require a notice. If you were aware of the accident, it will excuse service of a notice, no matter how trivial the incident was.
Designed by solicitors, tested by barristers and available around the clock, Road Traffic Representation is an online legal system that allows people accused of a motoring offence to get free advice on how the law will be applied in their case, and referral to a telephone helpline and representation by a barrister in court if required. Practising solicitor Martin Langan spent two years designing the system and creating the data repository which allows the software to analyse road traffic offences with the same authority as a solicitor.