Section 172 Notices and invalid prosecutions

Check dates on 172 noticesPolice in Greater Manchester have taken the decision to abandon hundreds of cases against drivers because summonses were not issued in time and this may have implications for many similar cases.

It is worth being clear what a Section 172 notice is. It derives its name from Section 172 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, and gives the police authority to require a registered keeper of a vehicle to state who was driving the vehicle on a particular date and time. They very commonly arrive after a vehicle has been photographed speeding.

The law requires the registered keeper to comply within 28 days, and if he does not an offence is committed. It carries 6 points on conviction, so can quickly get someone half way to 12 and disqualification, or worse all the way there.

If a registered keeper is to be prosecuted for failing to provide details of the driver, a summons must be issued within 6 months of the date of the offence. The person who fails to comply with the notice commits the offence on the expiration of the period of 28 days.

To take an example, the registered keeper of a vehicle photographed speeding by a speed camera on the 30 October 2011 at 10.30 in the morning might receive a notice under Section 172 on the 10 November 2011. It ought to arrive in 14 days of the offence, and it will give 28 days to provide the identity of the driver on that date and time. An offence is committed if by the 9 November the information has not been provided.

It is quite common for reminders or second requests to be sent out, and if this fails to produce the required information a summons will usually follow. So in my example a reminder might be sent out on the 10 November giving another 28 days to comply, expiring on the 8 December 2011. A reminder is not a requirement and one might not be sent.

If a summons is to be issued the law requires that to be done within 6 months of the offence, and in my example that would be the 9 May 2012, 6 months from the expiry of the first notice and not the reminder which would be 8 June 2012.

Summonses issued late are invalid, simple as that.. What sometimes happens is that the time for calculating the 6 months period is taken from the end of the reminder, and if it’s issued late in the 6 month period it risks being issued before the 8 June but after the 9 May.

Greater Manchester Police have apparently realised this and decided that summonses issued late because of the reminder process should be withdrawn as being invalid. It potentially opens up the possibility of wrongful convictions being looked at and may affect hundreds of drivers and registered keepers.

It emphasises the importance of carefully checking dates on court and other paperwork. 



Hello, can someone advise what happens to a prosecution if a S172 can be proved was not issued? Can prosecution still go ahead on the back of a police statement or would it need to be accompanied with a S172 to be viable in court?
Comment by Carl Clemans - dth 9 2017
I was charged with this 172 offense because they sent me letters and they could not find the reply from me, simple. If it is just letters they can not prove beyond reasonable doubt that you did not reply, If you say you sent it back they have to prove you didn't send it back and that is near on impossible. Different if a Police Officer asks you to your face but in my case it was all done through the Royal Mail and they did not have a chance in court.
Comment by tam - dth 10 2015
Surely when calculating these limits the 28 days is calculated from the day it is served which would not be the date on the notice. Most are sent first class so that would be deemed served on the second working day after posting adding two days or more. In the case I had the S172 was sent second class which would be even longer thus pushing back the statutory deadline, would it not?
Comment by Andrea Clegg - dth 8 2015
Is there a requirement that the police serve a Section 172 notice within 14 days of the alleged offence. Your article says "ought to arrive" in 14 days. In my case the alleged offense was on 7 July 15 and the notice is dated 3 August 15, there has been no change of address or vehicle and there is no reason why the police could not have acted diligently.
Comment by Victor Green - dth 8 2015
Good Morning and a huge Thank you. I cannot begin to explain the relief i have just felt after reading your page. I have just been served my first summons in 50 years, a worry i cannot begin to explain. Can i confirm that the date of the alleged offence is 9th April 2013, i received the summons on the 11th October. In my un educated eyes that is over 6 months. Do i now need to return these section 172 documents with out of date as my defense? Many Thanks John Shepherd
Comment by JOHN SHEPHERD - dth 10 2013
Somone else has just pointed out to me that in your example of timings, 9th November should read 9th December and so 9th May should read 9th June
Comment by Idris Francis - dth 7 2012
Being forced to identify the driver is the only offence in the entire statute book for which people can be penalised at all - let alone with worse penalties than than for the oiginal offence, And then only for 'modest2 offences of not involving potenrial prison sentences. My fight for the fundamental principle of the right to silence was lost in 2006 at the ECHR - most lawyers I know told me I was right, but that the Government could not afford and would not allow me to win. My Web site www.fightbackwithfacts.com provides an immense amount of data, analysis and comment covering the many and varied ways the authorities have lied and lied and lied again - apart that is from the dolts who believe the rubbish they spout - above the supposed benefits of speed cameras and lowering speeds in general
Comment by Idris Francis - dth 7 2012
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