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Who's the driver? Make sure you answer!

The litigation team at Schofield Sweeney has successfully defended a company faced with two separate prosecutions under s172(3) Road Traffic Act 1988.

S172(2) says that:

  • where the driver of a vehicle is alleged to be guilty of an offence the registered keeper of, “the vehicle shall give such information as to the identity of the driver as he may be required to give by or on behalf of a chief officer of police……” and that,  “any other person shall if required as stated above give any information which it is in his power to give and may lead to identification of the driver.” 
  • The Act at s172(3) says that, “a person who fails to comply with a requirement under subsection (2) above shall be guilty of an offence”.

Schofield Sweeney’s client is an infrastructure company with a number of vehicles on the road at any one time.  From time to time it receives requests under s172(3) and has in place a system for dealing with such requests promptly.  However, it cannot control the vagaries of the postal service and although it completed and sent back answers to the requests in neither case did the reply form reach the police and 2 summonses were issued against the company.

Plea Forms were completed explaining the situation in each case but the police decided to persist with the prosecutions and both were set up for trial.  Statements were prepared evidencing what the company had done in each case and trial were listed to be heard at York and Harrogate Magistrates’ Courts.  At York, when confronted with the evidence, the Crown Prosecution Service lawyer offered no evidence and the case was dismissed.  On the back of that the CPS was persuaded to drop the Harrogate case a few days before the trial date.

Whilst the company was left conviction free, it could not recover its costs of successfully defending the cases because a rule change in 2012 deprives acquitted corporate defendants of the ability to recover their costs out of central funds.

On a practical note:

  1. make sure you have a system in place to handle and deal with answering such requests for driver information and that your staff know what that system is and who needs the form when it arrives from the police;
  2. Keep a copy of the reply form that is returned and also a copy of the covering letter sending it back; and
  3. If you move address or change your registered office ensure that there is a post re-direction in place and that Companies House is promptly informed of the change; if you do not and the request goes to an old address you cannot demonstrate you have a proper system in place to deal with them.

To discuss this article or for further advice, please contact James Staton on 01274 350 800 or email the team law@schofieldsweeney.co.uk

About the Author

James Staton

Partner

James is a Partner and Head of the Dispute Resolution team and primarily handles commercial…

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