Many people misunderstand the so called ’14 day rule’ for Notices of Intended Prosecution.
Where Notices of Intended Prosecution (NIP) are required to be served, the prosecution only need to prove that it was posted so that it should have been received within 14 days. If it is your case that it was not received within this timescale, the onus is on you to prove it on the balance of probabilities.
Please also note that the 14 day requirement only applies to the first NIP sent. If the vehicle is a company car, the first notice will be sent to the registered company ie. the keeper within 14 days. If the company then identifies you as the driver, a second notice will be sent out to you, but the 14 day rule will not apply.
What if I don’t know who the driver was?
If you genuinely don’t know who the driver of the vehicle was, then you need to explain fully the reasons for this on the form, and give the full details of the potential drivers. It is not enough to simply say that you don’t know and it could be one of several people. You need to complete the Notice of Intended Prosecution as fully as possible.
Even if you don’t know who the driver was and you explain this fully on the form, it’s unlikely that the matter will end there. The police are likely to send out a Summons in due course, and the court will determine whether you’re telling the truth after a trial.
Bear in mind that if you decide to go to trial, the NIP you completed will form a vital part of your evidence. If you’ve not completed it fully but have returned it properly within the timescale, the court could find you guilty even if you genuinely don’t know who the driver is.
If I don’t fill in the NIP, does this mean they can’t prosecute me?
The courts have ruled that it is not a breach of human rights to require an individual to complete and return an NIP. The right against self-incrimination does not apply because the recipient is only asked to confirm who the driver was on the day. The form does not ask you to accept that an offence was committed by the named person.
It is important to note that if you receive an NIP, you have 28 days to complete and return it unless there is a good reason not to do so. If you do not return it within the timescale, you are likely to receive a Summons for failing to provide the identity of a driver and if convicted, will usually receive 6 points on your licence – even if you were not the driver!
Don’t the prosecution only have 6 months to send me a Court Summons?
We’re afraid not. The law states that the prosecution must “lay the information before the court” within 6 months. The relevant date is that of the alleged offence. The prosecution lays the information before they send the notice out to you. That date is recorded on the Summons. It is fairly common for the date to be only a day or two inside the time limit, but provided it’s within 6 months, it’s acceptable.
We advise you to wait a good seven months after the incident before assuming there will be no prosecution.
What if I didn’t receive the Notice of Intended Prosecution within 14 days?
Failure to comply with the 14 day NIP requirement means that there cannot be a conviction. This only applies to certain offences, one of which is speeding. You should be aware that if the police stopped you at the time of the alleged offence, there is no need for a notice.
Once the prosecution have shown that they posted the NIP in time, the burden of proof will shift to you to show that you didn’t receive it.
How do I prove that I didn’t receive something?
It’s very difficult. It’s easy to prove that you received something, but difficult to prove you did not.
This question is almost always determined at trial. You will have to give evidence that you did not receive the notice. Courts are not usually very sympathetic to this type of argument, so you have to deal with it carefully. This is because some people view this argument as a ‘loophole’ which allows drivers to avoid responsibility for an offence.
The police apply speed limits very strictly, so courts should apply time limits strictly too. However, Courts are sometimes reluctant to acquit drivers on what they deem to be a technicality. Speak to us if you are considering using this argument.
I didn’t receive the notice of intended prosecution because I was out of the country. Do I have a defence?
If you did not receive the Notice of Intended Prosecution or NIP because you were on holiday, you will not have a defence. You will still have failed to reply to the NIP, provided the prosecution have served the NIP correctly.
If you intend to be away from home for a lengthy period, make arrangements to deal with your mail. You should arrange for the post office or a responsible person to redirect or forward your mail. If your mail takes longer to reach you, you may not be able to respond within 28 days. If you respond as soon as you can and can prove it, you will have a defence.
I returned the NIP, but the CTO are saying they didn’t receive it. What should I do?
The prosecution only have to show that they sent the NIP so that you would receive it within 14 days. In the same way you only have to prove that you gave the information. Usually this means going in the witness box and explaining to the court what you put on the form. You will also have to confirm that you put it in the post. If you sent the reply via some form of recorded delivery, you may avoid having to attend court. Otherwise, it’s likely that you’ll have to attend court to give your evidence at trial. If the court accepts your evidence, you’ll have a defence and the court will acquit you.
Although there is no obligation to use recorded mail, it’s a good idea to do so.
What if the details on the Notice of Intended Prosecution are Wrong?
It depends what the error on the Notice of Intended Prosecution is.
The courts will generally no longer allow minor typographical errors to prevent a prosecution from succeeding. The general test is whether it is clear from the NIP what particular incident the police are referring to. The purpose of the NIP is to alert a driver shortly after the incident of an alleged offence. This gives them a better chance of being able to provide accurate information about the driver and the incident itself. Obviously your memory will be better nearer the time.
If you’re not sure whether to reply to a Notice of Intended Prosecution, then either get in touch with us. Alternatively you should err on the safe side and write back to the ticket office for clarification.