Motoring Offences and Perverting the Course of Justice
If you've ever thought about allowing someone else to take your penalty points, then read this first.
Many minor speeding offences result in the offer of a fixed penalty of 3 points and a £100 fine or a driver awareness course. If you accept a fixed penalty, this is technically a conviction, even though no court attendance is required. It is an extremely minor conviction and one which most employers will have no regard to, unless it directly affects your ability to do your job. Nonetheless, no one wants to get penalty points as it can increase motor insurance premiums and brings you closer to 12 points which ordinarily results in a mandatory ban.
It's therefore unsurprising that many are tempted to allow their spouse, a friend or even pay a stranger to accept points for them. But in doing so, both the driver and the person accepting the points are committing a very serious offence. This offence is known as Perverting the Course of Justice.
What is Perverting the Course of Justice?
This offence is committed when you do an act which has a tendency to pervert the course of justice and which is intended to pervert the course of justice. This includes deliberately nominated the wrong driver of a vehicle who has committed an alleged motoring offence. Basically, any act which interferes with an investigation or causes it to head in the wrong direction may tend to pervert the course of justice.
The offence is very serious and carries an unlimited prison sentence. It can only be dealt with at the Crown Court although the first hearing will be in the Magistrates' Court. Upon conviction the offence will normally attract a custodial sentence and the court could also impose a period of disqualification from driving.
What if I don't know who the driver is?
Notices requiring you to identify the driver of a vehicle are written in such a way as to put pressure on you to give the driver's details. This is because deliberately failing to provide the details is a criminal offence. Upon receipt of a notice, you are under a legal obligation to give all the information that is in your power to give that could lead to the identification of the driver of the vehicle. If you are the registered keeper of the vehicle, you are expected to exercise due dilligence when trying to ascertain who the driver is. But what if you genuinely don't know who the driver is?
Unless you are a business (where the law is slightly different) you will have a defence provided that you have responded to the notice and given all the information you have. This could mean providing details of the possible drivers and an explanation of why you don't know who was driving. You should also explain the steps you've taken to try and find out who the driver is. Ideally you should enclose a separate covering letter explaining this.
What you must not do, is nominate someone you know wasn't driving. If the police are able to prove that you deliberately nominated the wrong person, you are likely to be charged with perverting the course of justice.
Will I go to prison for nominating the wrong driver?
If the police are able to prove that you knowingly nominated the wrong driver and you are convicted of perverting the course of justice, then it is highly likely. Prison sentences typically range from 4 months to 3 years, but can be longer. The length of the sentence will depend on factors including:
- Whether any other person was wrongfully exposed to the risk of arrest or prosecution, particularly if they are innocent;
- Whether the act was prolonged or repeated;
- Whether the act has the intention of avoiding a more serious consequence, or example, by giving the wrong name so as to avoid a mandatory disqualification or a 'totting' disqualification.
Very occasionally, a suspended sentence may be imposed. This may be appropriate if the person responsible has come forward of their own accord and relatively little harm has been done.
If you are worried about being interviewed or prosecuted for perverting the course of justice, you seek advice before making contact with the police. It is important you are aware of your rights and what the police need to prove in order to get the best outcome.