Have you received a Single Justice Procedure Notice for a Driving Offence?
If so, are you struggling to know what to do with it? Then read on….
What are Single Justice Procedure Notices?
These are relatively new, and have been introduced supposedly to save court time. The Police are using Single Justice Procedure Notices in conjunction with speeding and other motoring offences. The Police issue Single Justice Procedure Notices for non-imprisonable offences which can only be dealt with by a Magistrates’ Court.
Often, the types of offences dealt with by Single Justice Procedure Notice may be uncontested, and therefore (theoretically) a court hearing is unnecessary. Whilst there is some logic behind the theory, in reality, they’re still being issued for offences which really warrant a court hearing. For example, higher level speeding offences eg. 110mph in a 70mph limit are very likely to result in a disqualification. Therefore, when the court makes such a decision, the defendant driver should be present. In such a case, the court is likely to list the matter for a hearing in order for the driver to attend. In our view sending a Single Justice Procedure Notice is inappropriate in these cases.
What should I do if I receive a Single Justice Procedure Notice?
Unlike with a Summons, the defendant driver (and not a solicitor) must complete the Single Justice Procedure Notice. However, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t seek advice before responding. It may be that you do in fact have a defence or that there are Special Reasons available to you. These could make a significant difference to the outcome. The Single Justice Procedure could have the effect of encouraging some defendants to plead guilty to an offence because it appears to ‘make light’ of the offence by suggesting a solicitor is not necessary.
Even if you don’t have a defence or special reasons, it’s important that you make the court aware of any mitigating circumstances. It’s also important that you tell the court about the impact various penalties would have on you and/or others. You may feel comfortable explaining this yourself, or you may be worried that you will ‘say the wrong thing’ so that the court may misinterpret it. You may be worried that you will miss something out. It may be that you don’t know what sort of factors are relevant to the court’s decision making process.
It’s entirely up to you if you’d like help or not, and we’re here if you need us.
Will I definitely avoid having to go to court?
Not necessarily. The Single Justice Procedure Notices use standard wording regardless of the seriousness of the offence. The theory is that it avoids unnecessary court hearings. However, if disqualification from driving is a possibility, the court must warn the driver beforehand. This usually the court inviting the driver to a court hearing. Driving whilst disqualified is a very serious offence which can result in a prison sentence. For that reason, courts must attempt to ensure the driver is a aware of the ban before imposing it. So, depending on the offence and the number of points on your licence, you may still need to attend court at some point.
Also you will have to attend court if you contest the matter and it proceeds to a trial. The same goes for if you intend to put forward special reasons or exceptional hardship to avoid points or disqualification.
Examples of when drivers will usually still need to attend court
– A driver has six penalty points for two speeding offences. The driver committed the speeding offences in the three years prior to the current alleged mobile phone offence. Driving while using a mobile phone is an offence for which the court will impose a minimum of six penalty points (unless there are special reasons). The court won’t be able to deal with an offence of driving while using a mobile phone without the driver attending court because the driver would be facing a ‘totting up’ disqualification.
– A driver is facing an allegation of driving at 55mph in a 30mph limit. The magistrates’ court sentencing guidelines suggest that the court should impose a period of disqualification of between 7-56 days or six points. The court should request that the driver should attend court so it can consider disqualification. This does not mean that the court will definitely impose a driving ban, but it is a very real possibility.
In either of these cases, it is important to seek legal advice at the earliest possible stage.
If you’ve received a single justice procedure notice, give us a call. Similarly if you’d like to discuss a possible defence or special reasons argument for speeding or any other motoring offence, then get in touch.