The majority of people caught ‘jumping’ a red light are caught out by the dreaded yellow peril: a safety camera. If a vehicle is snapped going through a red light, then the registered keeper can expect to receive a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) through the post within 14 days of the alleged offence.
Many straightforward offences of this nature are dealt with by way of a conditional offer of a Fixed Penalty Notice. This means that a form is sent out alongside the NIP that asks the registered keeper to name the driver at the time the offence was committed. Essentially, it asks them to provide an admission of guilt, and in return, offers a fixed penalty charge rather than a trip to court.
Currently, the minimum penalty for failing to stop at a red light is a £100 fine and 3 penalty points, but if you believe you have mitigating circumstances, or that the penalty has been issued incorrectly, you do have the right of appeal.
One of the most common routes of appeal against this type of offence comes under the Paragraph 4 – Unsure of Driver clause. This means that the registered keeper doesn’t know who was driving the car at the time the offence was committed. This is what the Road Traffic Act 1988 has to say about it:
Section 172 (Paragraph 4) Road Traffic Act 1988; section 172(2(a)) : the person keeping 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.
(4) A person shall not be guilty of an offence by virtue of paragraph (a) of subsection (2) above if he shows that he did not know and could not with reasonable diligence have ascertained who the driver of the vehicle was.
What does this mean in English? Basically it means that you have to have made a reasonable effort in trying to figure out who was driving the car. What ‘reasonable diligence’ is, is open to debate by the court – if it gets that far, and most cases don’t!
Respond in writing to the ticket office telling them that you aren’t sure who was driving the car at the time, give your reasons, and request a copy of the photographic evidence. Make sure that you do this in plenty of time and send any correspondence by recorded delivery.
Once the photographs arrive you will know if the driver is identifiable. Often, the photographs are of very poor quality and sometimes they are taken from the rear of the vehicle so you still cannot tell who is driving the car.
If the photographic evidence is inconclusive it is debatable whether or not you should sign the NIP, as it is effectively an admission of guilt and could potentially be brought up against you as such if the case goes to court.
In this case what you should do is write a letter explaining that, despite your best endeavours, you are unable to identify the driver. Explain that both drivers have seen the images, but neither of them are clear as to which it actually is. Include the following sentence (or similar):Under section 172 of the Road Traffic 1988, I have a responsibility to determine to the best of my ability who was driving the vehicle at the time the offence was committed. As required by 172(4), I have exercised reasonable diligence, but am still unable to ascertain who it is that was driving the car. Include the names/addresses of any potential drivers and word the letter in a friendly, but firm, tone.
It would be difficult for a magistrate to convict a registered keeper who has been seen to do everything in their power to ascertain who was driving the car. After all, if you have done everything you can to figure out who was driving, and they can’t prove otherwise, how can they reasonably convict you?
If you do decide to go ahead to challenge the penalty in court, do remember that if things don’t go your way, the Magistrate will determine any fine and/or penalty points awarded. They can increase the fine and the number of penalty points that go onto your licence just as easily as they can reduce them – and you might also end up having to pay the court costs, too.
If you have been charged with a driving offence, you should take advice from a solicitor.
Disclaimer: The information in the article is for general purpose information only and should not be constituted as legal advice. This article has been produced by a third party and Jardine Motors does not take any responsibility for the completeness, accuracy, or reliability with respect to the website or the information provided. Article last updated March 2016.