Driving Without Insurance

In the UK it is an absolute offence to drive without at least third party insurance. This means that if you are driving and you have no insurance you have committed the offence even if you did not know. Its as simple as that. 

It follows that lack of knowledge or ignorance or mistake cannot be used as a defence. Even if you cab show that you honestly believed yourself to be insured and had proper grounds for holding that belief, it will not be enough to prevent a conviction.

There are some related offences you need to be aware of. It is an offence to cause or permit someone without insurance to drive a vehicle without insurance. So if you allow a friend or relative to drive your vehicle and they do not have insurance, you will commit the offence of permitting them to drive without insurance. The fact that you did not know they were uninsured will not be a defence. However, if you gave them permission to drive on the strict condition they were in fact insured, yiu will be ok.

The Law

As a minimum an individual must have third party insurance in order to drive a vehicle on a road or in a public place within the UK. Penalties for driving without insurance or for permitting someone else to drive uninsured include:

  1. A fine of up to £5,000;
  2. An endorsement of between six and eight penalty points on your license;
  3. Disqualification from driving.

A simple oversight, such as forgetting to renew your car insurance at the correct time, can lead to serious penalties. This is becoming a more common problem due to the level of automation that insurance companies now operate with. It can sometimes lead to the cancellation of your insurance policy without you knowing it.

As well as this it may only become clear after you are pulled over that your insurance is not valid. Some insurance companies will claim that their having incorrect details amounts to a ‘misrepresentation’ on your behalf, rendering the policy void. If you are driving for business purposes and only have domestic cover, you may be in difficulty.

The Defence

The case against you can be challenged if you believe you were actually insured at the time, and can provide evidence of this within seven days of being stopped. If you fail to comply then a separate charge of failing to produce a certificate can be brought, but the likelihood is that this charge would be abandoned if you can show that you did have the proper insurance.

If you weren’t driving on a road or public place and can demonstrate this then you have not broken the law. This can be quite technical and places that are public at some times can be argued to be private at other times. Putting forth this argument requires experience of law and the court system and must be evaluated on a case by case basis.

In all of these cases, because it is an absolute offense, the burden of proof is on the defendant. In other words you are guilty until proven innocent.

Though it is difficult, it is far from impossible to defend these cases and within the statute that creates the offence there is a special statutory defence for employees. There is also the possibility that a case may have been started incorrectly, for example if police computers were out of date. Even if you admit the charge it is still quite possible to mitigate the charge on the basis of Special Reasons.

Special Reasons may include good reasons to believe that you had insurance at the time, such as your insurance provider failing to notify you of a change to your policy or someone telling you that you that you were insured. In these cases you have still technically broken the law but it will be possible to ask the court not to endorse penalty points on your licence or to fine you. There are also technical arguments that can be made on the basis of the type of permission given when being charged with permitting someone to drive without insurance.

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