Notice of intended prosecution
In order to make sure drivers have proper warning that they may be prosecuted for one or more road traffic offences, the law requires they are given a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP).
This is a statutory entitlement contained in Section 1(1) of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 and the driver must:
- Be warned at the time of the offence about the possibility of a prosecution for an offence
- Have been served with a summons from the Court within 14 days of the offence
- Be made aware that within 14 days of the commission of the offence a Notice of Intended Prosecution was served on the driver or the person who was the registered keeper at the time the offence took place
It is rare for a Court to serve a summons within 14 days of an offence and so in most cases the driver will be given a road side verbal warning when stopped, or will receive a written warning in the post.
In speed camera cases the receipt of the NIP is usually the first indication to the motorist that an offence has been committed.
It is essential to check the date of receipt (and to keep the envelope if there is any doubt) because the law requires service within 14 days. If it was posted by ordinary first class post within the 14 day period there is a presumption of service by the second business day after posting, unless the driver shows this did not happen. In a recent case the Court was shown that a postal strike meant the NIP could not have arrived within the 14 day period.
The NIP must also comply with some other statutory requirements which include the proper identification of the offence, its date and its location. The NIP should provide enough information to enable a driver to know exactly what he is alleged to have done, and an improperly completed one may mislead and prejudice a defence.
Late service of a NIP is a complete bar to a prosecution. A motorist cannot be convicted of most straightforward road traffic offences unless the procedure is properly complied with.
When determining how to go about dealing with road traffic offences the starting point is always a careful look at the date and content of a NIP.