Speeding is by far the most common traffic offence in the UK with over 115,000 speeding tickets being issued in 2013 and almost 1,000 people per week being summoned to court for speed related offences.
Due to the increasing prevalence of speed cameras, both static and mobile, and varying speed limits throughout the country it has become increasingly easy for even careful and considerate motorists to be accused of breaking the speed limit. This can result in having to attend a speed awareness course, fines, penalty points or, in more severe or repeat cases, disqualification from driving.
A clear understanding of the process involved and of the principles the Courts apply in all such cases is central to properly representing my clients' best interests. This will range from a full challenge to the allegation to the presentation of evidence and submissions establishing "special reasons" or minimising the penalties. I have particular expertise in this.
The law regarding speeding is in many ways very simple. If your vehicle is traveling at a speed in excess of the limit for that stretch of road, an offence is committed. Speeds are detected in a variety of ways from cameras and hand held devices to police officers measuring against their speedometers.
A lot of offences are dealt with by Speed Awareness Courses available throughout the country. These are offered at the discretion of the police and there is no entitlement to them. However, as long as the excess speed is within certain limits, the police will offer them unless someone has been on one before.
Many others are dealt with by fixed penalty, again to which there is no entitlement as of right. Unless the speed recorded is very high the police will usually make an offer of a fixed penalty. The exception will be for those drivers who already have 9 points or more on the licence and who will become liable to a 6 month "totting" disqualification. These cases end up in court and I deal with them elsewhere.
Despite the relative simplicity of the offence, prosecutions can become complicated and involve issues like adequate road signs, proper local authority or Central Government paperwork to impose temporary speed restrictions, the proper targeting of a vehicle by devices, and the proper use of such devices.
In the UK, unless otherwise stated, national speed limits for most vehicles are as follows:
• 30mph in built-up areas (this can drop to 20mph in some places)
• 60mph on single carriageways
• 70mph on dual carriageways and motorways
The vast majority of offences are investigated in the same way. They are most often detected by camera, simply because there are so many by the roadside. If a camera photographs a vehicle exceeding the speed limit, the registered keeper is sent a notice asking him to state who was driving. There is a statutory requirement to provide this information, and it's an offence not to. This is an area of law people need to be careful with and I deal with it fully elsewhere. LINK
The driver will in due course receive either a Fixed Penalty Notice, or a Summons to appear in court. A Fixed Penalty Notice carries a minimum fine of £100 and three penalty points on your driving licence. If the case goes to court the range of sentence is much greater with disqualification from driving being a possibility depending on the circumstances. High speeds and repeat offending carry the greatest penalties.
Whether you receive a Fixed Penalty Notice or a Summons is largely dependent on the severity of the offence. As a general rule anything higher than 10mph over the speed limit is likely to receive a summons and driving at speeds in excess of 50% of the speed limit will likely result in disqualification.
The police have guidelines for when to issue a penalty, but it should be remembered these are discretionary:
Maximum Speed for Fixed Penalty
Minimum Speed for a Prosecution
Penalty points stay on your licence for three years from the date of the offence. Accumulating twelve or more points in a three-year period (only six or more points are required if you have been driving for under two years) will result in disqualification from driving, or a revocation of the licence.
There are a number of ways in which you might argue against a speeding prosecution:
- Signage. If the speed limit was not identifiable you may be able to argue that you had no way of knowing you were speeding. Signs must be clear and properly maintained. However this will not apply to restricted roads where the positioning of street lighting will determine the limit and you are expected to know that.
- The expiry of time limits. When issuing a Notice of Intended Prosecution or a summons the police must observe strict time limits and these always need checking. I do this with care because there are occasions when the time limits are not observed and this can provide a complete defence. For example, a summons for speeding must be issued in the Magistrates Court within 6 months of the date of the offence. For the case to have got this far the police must have served a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) within 14 days of the offence and properly identified the driver.
- Speed detection devices. The police have many different ways to measure speeding vehicles, but all of these must be calibrated correctly and handled by members of the force who are trained to do so.
- Special circumstances. This could involve any number of situations in which it was necessary to drive at above the speed limit and have to be dealt with on a case to case basis. This would by way of example include an emergency.
What I can do for you
If you are facing a court summons, penalty points or disqualification for speeding, it is essential to speak to a good motoring lawyer as it may be possible to mitigate the sentence, even where the offence itself has been committed.
Special Reasons allow the court to reduce or completely cancel the normal consequences of a conviction. When they are established in court, a convicted motorist might, for example, completely avoid a disqualification or penalty points for speeding. Speeding offences are open to the use of special reasons and I have used them successfully on several occasions. Special reasons should be considered at the outset, but it is essential that they are argued correctly.
Your solicitor’s skill and expertise will identify whether or not a special reason might exist, and will then present the relevant evidence to the court, together with legal argument. All of these things are crucial to your chances of successfully mitigating and minimising the sentence. It is therefore essential that you choose your solicitor very carefully.
Even if there is no special reason, well presented explanations and mitigation will still influence the court’s sentence, and can reduce the length of disqualification and number of points imposed. Well presented and sincere mitigation aimed at persuading the court to sentence you more leniently can mean the difference between a small fine and total disqualification from driving.
I work very hard to obtain the best possible results for my clients and understand the value of obtaining good quality supporting testimonials from family, friends and work colleagues who know how the outcome will affect you.
Please get in touch with us to find out how I can help you.