Now that I am retired having been many years a magistrate with a long awareness of the declining freedoms enjoyed by the ordinary citizen and a corresponding fear of the big brother state`s ever increasing encroachment on civil liberties I hope that my personal observations within these general parameters will be of interest to those with an open mind. Having been blogging with this title for many years against the rules of the Ministry of Justice my new found freedom should allow me to be less inhibited in these observations.
Comments are usually moderated. However, I do not accept any legal responsibility for the content of any comment. If any comment seems submitted just to advertise a website it will not be published.
Thursday, 27 March 2014
s.172:- Duty to give information as to identity of driver etc in certain circumstances. There surely must be changes in the format of this requirement? Heaven knows how many such notices are disputed in magistrates` courts owing to alleged non receipt and subsequent convictions appealed at Crown Court. We are familiar with the arguments against having the notices sent out as “to be signed for” post. The likelihood of massive changes in our postal system initiated by the sale of Royal Mail do not augur well for any reduction in the numbers who claim they did not receive the notice or the statutory reminder. If e-mail and/or mobile phone number were required information for V5 registration document and DVLA were prohibited from supplying such information to third parties perhaps we would have fewer cases before us. Of course there are many caveats to proposals which further invade our privacy but I don`t believe the current system can continue for much longer.
All the above was brought to mind at a recent sitting. We had listed six trials on failing to comply with s.172 and all the defendants bar one based their not guilty pleas on the non receipt of both the notice to inform of driver and the reminder. We found only one not guilty. Two of those, in addition to six penalty points which made one of them a “totter”, ended up with fine and costs totalling around £1,000. Needless to say their faces dropped in astonishment. It was revealing also that two of the guilty when asked to provide some evidence that they had left the address to which the notices had been sent (from the DVLA data on the address of the keeper of a vehicle) said that they had such evidence eg council tax or utility bill but had not thought to bring it with them. Another of the guilty had written on his own headed paper in response to the notice that the driver was one of two of his immediate family both now domiciled abroad and that both denied being culpable. We did not consider that he had supplied sufficient diligence in his efforts to identify the driver.
One would have thought that with the disgrace of lying former cabinet minister Chris Huhne who was brought down by a s.172 offence the message might be getting through that the risks of being caught out are real and very costly. No doubt there are many apologists who reject the imprisonment of such offenders. There must be an unequivocal last resort of custody as the punishment for those who through their own contempt for the law whether by subverting s.172 or wilful refusal to pay council tax or court imposed fines undermine the very foundations of society.