We receive many enquiries from people who have been informed by the police that they are considering prosecuting them in relation to a motoring offence. The most common examples are driving without insurance, failing to stop and report an accident, driving without due care or dangerous driving.
In most cases the police have six months from the date of the offence to charge someone or issue a summons. Usually, the person being investigated is told to await their decision.
With the huge cutbacks in police funding, we have noticed a significant delay in decisions being made, and people often end up waiting many stressful months to get a decision. Most solicitors refuse to get involved at this stage and suggest that there is no point in trying to influence the police in relation to the decision as to whether or not to charge and in relation to the specific nature of any charge.
Unlike most solicitors, we encourage people to contact us at the earliest possible stage in the proceedings. People do not have to sit back and wait for the police to decide their fate. Positive action can be taken to try to dissuade the police from issuing criminal proceedings, and we have a very good record in doing so.
We have had many cases where the lead officer has been adamant with our client (prior to our involvement) that they are going to be charged, sometimes with a very serious road traffic offence, for example dangerous driving, and we have managed to positively influence things in our client’s favour. We even had one officer who said that he was glad to hear from us because he felt it was indicative of the client taking the matter seriously. The client had been threatened with a charge of dangerous driving and we managed to get him on a driver improvement course as an alternative to prosecution.
Most of the enquiries we receive relate to minor collisions between two vehicles. If the drivers do not remain at the scene to exchange details, or report the accident to the police, the registered keeper will be sent a request for driver information and a notice of intended prosecution. The notice compels the registered keeper to confirm the name and contact details of the person who would have been driving at the time of the accident.
If nominated, the driver will then be sent a request for information. Once completed, the Criminal Justice Unit will then investigate. This is when we usually intervene. We will take a full account of the event from our client, and we will then write detailed representations to the police. It is not necessary for our client to have a defence for us to do this.
We ask the police to consider whether they think that a prosecution is in the public interest i.e. does the offence warrant the driver being brought before the Court, and does it justify using public funds to do so? If both parties are insured, there is usually no reason why the insurance companies cannot resolve the matter. Not every collision needs to result in a criminal prosecution.
If the police do not agree with our suggested course of action, we also make enquiries about a Driver Alertness Course. The police have the power to offer this course as an alternative to criminal proceedings for careless driving offences. The Police should consider offering the course at the outset but if the officer is of the initial view that the offence is too serious, or if they do not believe that the driver accepts guilt, it may not be deemed appropriate.
We are often able to persuade the police to reconsider their decision. If the course is offered and completed, no criminal proceedings will be instigated and the matter will be brought to a close.
As part of their investigation, the police may ask someone to take part in an interview. For minor road traffic offences such as failing to stop, failing to report, or careless driving, the interview will usually be voluntary. It is always important to speak to a solicitor before the interview and, wherever possible, to have a legal representative present. This is because any information you give to the police during the interview could be used against you.
We have also been contacted by clients who are being investigated for drink driving, specifically when they have given a blood sample. Usually they will be bailed back to the police station at a later date, as the blood sample has to be tested for the presence of alcohol, and this can take a few weeks. They will then be instructed to return to the station on their bail date, when they will be advised of the result.
If the Police have requested a blood sample, and the suspect has asked to be provided with their own specimen, this will be given when the suspect leaves the station. However, little instruction is given as to what to do next.
In this situation, most people wait and hope that when the police obtain the test results, they will be under the limit. When they return to the station, rarely are they aware of what to expect. The police could formally charge them with drink driving and may even request an interview be conducted on that day.
When clients contact us in the above situation, we always advise that they send their own sample of blood to an expert in order for it to be tested. This is because there is always the possibility that, even if the police’s sample is over the legal limit, your sample could be below. Time is of the essence as the integrity of the sample diminishes quickly. We regularly arrange for our client’s blood samples to be tested by our panel of toxicologists.
Should the test come back under the legal limit, we can serve the expert report and results on the police, and attempt to persuade them not to charge, even if their test result is over the legal limit. We have had drink-driving allegations dropped at the police station stage prior to charge by making representations in relation to significant procedural failings and in cases where there is clear evidence of post driving alcohol consumption.
We know nobody likes drink-driving allegations and we completely empathise, but the rules in relation to police procedure are extremely strict and they have to be followed in order to ensure the integrity of the evidence in the case.
It is a fine balance in deciding what information to provide to the police before formal proceedings have been brought. Some people who contact us for advice decide to write to the police themselves to try to dissuade them from prosecuting, but we would never recommend them doing this.
When we make our representations, we have to consider whether making admissions at this stage is in our client’s best interest. If the Police have a lack of evidence to prove an offence has been committed, it would be detrimental to make full admissions on our client’s behalf.
The reason we wanted to let PHTM readers know the above position is because we know that there are probably thousands of drivers waiting to find out if their licences are at risk. Do not sit back and wait. Contact us to see if we think it is in your interest to be proactive.
In 67 per cent of the cases we took on at this stage in the investigation, we were able to persuade the Police not to take any further criminal action.
This impartial advice has been provided by Patterson Law Solicitors. If you need any advice on motoring matters then please email: firstname.lastname@example.org or for regular updates on road traffic law follow them on:
facebook.com/PattersonLawMotoringSolicitors or twitter.com/Patterson_Law_
Tel: 01626 359800 www.pattersonlaw.co.uk