Drivers disputing motoring offences in court face a longer wait for justice because of an unprecedented backlog of cases caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Those accused of committing minor motoring offences are given the opportunity to plead through the post rather than appearing in court.
This is known as the “Single Justice Procedure” and it is an option offered to those accused of offences that cannot normally incur a prison sentence, such as speeding, driving without insurance, or driving with defective lights.
In this case your alleged motoring offence will go before a single magistrate who will look at the evidence in your absence.
That’s fine if you are bang to rights and you want to plead guilty. But just because the summons says you’ve done something, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re guilty.
If you decide to plead not guilty you will be given a court hearing at which you can dispute evidence outlined by the Crown Prosecution Service and provide your own version of events, any corroborative evidence, and any witnesses to support your case.
Non-serious offences are normally heard and have judgement passed in the magistrates court, which is the lowest tier of our judicial system. But all offences, minor motoring offences, public order offences and even the most serious ones such as murder, begin in the magistrates’ court before being adjourned to crown court and lockdown has led to a huge backlog in these cases being heard.
- As serious as it is, using a phone while driving is considered one of the less serious motoring offences.
Motoring convictions during lockdown
Here the experts at Adrian Flux answer your FAQs on what to expect if you are summoned for a motoring offence during lockdown.
What should I do if I receive a summons for a motoring offence?
You will need to read the summons very carefully and decide if the allegation is true and whether you intend to plead guilty or not guilty. If you are considering pleading not guilty it is probably time to seek some expert legal advice.
What will happen if I ignore a summons for a motoring offence?
The court has a number of options if you do not respond. You may lose the chance to challenge the case or put forward your mitigation.
Your licence can be endorsed or a disqualification may be imposed without your knowledge, which will have serious implications regarding your ability to drive and your motor insurance policy.
Is there a chance my motoring offence will be dropped because of the coronavirus crisis?
Your motoring offence will not go away. The CPS has said that despite delays in administering justice during the COVID-19 crisis there are no plans to cease prosecution of less serious offences such as speeding.
If I go to court will the hearing be delayed because of Covid-19?
Lockdown has caused huge delays in the magistrates court system. Every court in England and Wales is making its own arrangements to respond to the coronavirus crisis. Many are delaying hearings for minor motoring offences (such as speeding, drink driving, driving without due care and attention, or using a mobile phone while driving, etc) to allow court time for more serious criminal matters.
Do I have to attend court when I plead not guilty?
It depends on your individual circumstances. If you are worried about attending court because of the COVID-19 risks you may be able to get a solicitor to attend and plead on your behalf if you have been summoned for a minor motoring offence.
However, if you have been bailed to attend court for a more serious offence such as drink driving, you must attend in person. You will also have to attend if you are to plead guilty and the conviction will mean you have totted up 12 penalty points or more and you will face losing your licence.
Can I write a letter to the magistrates instead of going to court?
If your case is considered a minor motoring offence and it is to be heard by a single magistrate, you will be given the opportunity to plead guilty and write a letter outlining mitigating circumstances and appealing for leniency.
The magistrate hearing your case will read your letter along with CPS evidence and police statements before determining your punishment.
Could the coronavirus crisis mean I am less likely to be disqualified?
If you are a key worker and need to drive to get to your workplace or to be able to do your job, the magistrates may be more reluctant to disqualify you. They may also show clemency if you prove you need to drive to deliver food or medical supplies to friends or family who are self-isolating.
Could Covid mean I’m more likely to be banned?
If it comes out in court during your hearing that you were speeding while doing a non-essential journey this could be seen as an aggravating factor which may increase your punishment,and make a ban more likely.
Where will my court case be heard?
Despite the Government’s lockdown travel advice, your case will be heard by the magistrates court which covers the area in which the offence was committed, even for minor motoring offences. So, if you live in Essex for example and you were caught speeding on the M4 in Wales, you will probably have a 400 mile eight hour round trip to face the music.
- You will need to attend the court within the jurisdiction of where the offence was committed.
Are drink drive awareness courses and other driver rehabilitation courses still being held during lockdown?
The National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) suspended driver awareness courses in March 2020 but they have now been replaced with online digital classroom courses accessed via a secure video link.
Rehab courses are run for those convicted of a range of motoring offences including drink driving, speeding, driving without due care and attention and going through a red light.
These courses are often offered to first time offenders as an alternative to prosecution, fine and/or points on the licence.
Do I need to tell my insurer if I am convicted of a motoring offence?
If you have points on your licence for motoring offences you must tell your insurer when you get quoted for cover. Your policy cost will reflect the risk you present as a driver and, with points on your licence you may well be deemed a greater risk.
But with more than 100 insurance schemes to choose from, Adrian Flux specialises in bespoke insurance packages for those with blemishes on their driving record and you will find we don’t use your endorsements and motoring offences as leverage to inflate your policy premium. In fact, if you have been quoted in excess of £2,000 for your motor insurance, the team at Adrian Flux is confident they will be able to beat the best quote you have been given.
To find out more about our value-for-money convicted driver insurance policies call 0800 369 8590 — 79.5% of all customers receiving an online quote in July 2020 could have obtained a cheaper quote over the phone, based on the information they provided.