What are the time limits for issuing a Court Summons or NIP?

There are a lot of rumours flying around about the mistakes made by the police or prosecuting authorities and whether that allows people to 'get off' an allegation. Many of those rumours are either out of date or completely incorrect. It's important you don't base your decision of whether to decline a Fixed Penalty Notice or to defend an allegation on a Summons on concepts which have no legal basis. Otherwise, you'll not only end up feeling foolish but also lose your credit for entering an early guilty plea and also potentially receive a large order for payment of prosecution costs.

If you think your case can be defended, it's sensible to have this confirmed by an expert. It doesn't matter whether you're based in Derby, Nottingham, Leicester or further afield. A Pragma solicitor can advise and represent you at court.

As a starting point, below are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions in this area.


What does the law say about Notices of Intended Prosecution?

Section 1 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 requires that for certain offences:

Section 1 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 requires that for certain offences:
(a) the defendant must have been warned at the time of the possibility of prosecution for the offence; or
(b) the defendant must have been served with the summons within 14 days of the offence; or
(c) notice of the possibility of the prosecution must have been sent by the prosecutor within 14 days of the offence either to the driver or to the registered keeper of the vehicle.Please note that this requirement does not apply to all driving offences.

Section 1(1A) of the 1988 Offenders Act provides:
“A notice required by this section to be served on any person may be served on that person—
(a) by delivering it to him;
(b) by addressing it to him and leaving it at his last known address; or
(c) by sending it by registered post, recorded delivery service or first class post, addressed to him at his last known address.”

No - 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. Therefore 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.

The majority of motoring offence proceedings begin with either a court summons or a postal requisition. They are different because of the way they are issued but it makes no difference which forms you receive. The actual effect of these different forms upon you is the same in that they require you to answer a charge or allegation. 

It is worth looking at the date they were issued or laid before the court though, just in case the prosecution is out of time. See below for information on the six-month rule.

We're afraid not. The law states that if the form used is a Court Summons, the prosecution must "lay the information before the court" within 6 months of the date of the alleged offence (commonly referred to as the six-month rule). If it is a Postal Requisition, the relevant date is the issue date. The issuing and laying of the information is something that is done before it is sent out to you and that date is recorded on the Summons or Requisition. 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.

In any event, our advice is to wait a good 7 months after the incident before assuming you aren't being prosecuted. Also, the six-month rule applies only to "Summary Only" offences. This means it applies only to offences which can only be tried in the Magistrates' Courts. Therefore more serious offences such as dangerous driving or causing death by careless driving aren't included.

The courts have ruled that it is not a breach of human rights to require an individual to complete and return a NIP. The right against self-incrimination does not apply because the recipient is only asked to confirm who the driver was on the day. They are not asked whether or not they accept that an offence was committed by that person.

It is important to note that if you receive a 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!

Failure to comply with the 14 day NIP requirement means that there cannot be a conviction for the offences to which it applies. Be aware, however, that if you were stopped at the time of the alleged offence or if there was an accident, there is no need for a notice.

You should also be aware that the burden of proof will shift to you once the prosecution has shown that the NIP was posted in time.

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 at which the intended recipient will have to give evidence of having not received the notice. Courts are not usually very sympathetic to this type of argument, so this has to be dealt with carefully. The reason they aren't sympathetic is that using this type of argument may be seen as a loophole to avoid responsibility for an offence.

It's quite right that if speed limits are so strictly applied, then so should time limits. However, Courts are reluctant to acquit drivers on what they deem to be a technicality. Speak to us if you are considering using this argument.