Always ask a lawyer if you are unsure about any of the advice and information provided here.
s143. It is an offence to use (or permit to be used) a motor vehicle on a road or public place when there is not in force a relation to the use of the vehicle such a policy of insurance in respect of third party risks as complies with the Road Traffic Act.
Road Traffic Act 1988 s143
Often called “driving without insurance” but the fact is that the Road Traffic Act states to “USE” a vehicle without insurance is an offence. The car may be parked or just sitting in the street and you could be guilty of the offence.
We have defended a case where a private hire taxi company had failed to insure one of their drivers and he was subsequently charged with s143. He had tendered a guilty plea in absence of representation however when we met with him we explained that this is the only exception to the strict liability that this charge attracts. That is as an employee you can assume that your employer has insured the vehicle that he asks you to drive in the course of your work. His guilty plea was withdrawn, the Crown accepted his not guilty plea and he lived to drive another day.
The employer would ultimately be prosecuted in this type of case.
The moral of the story is “Get legal advice from a qualified specialist”
No insurance charges are serious and can attract short periods of disqualification. They always attract a high penalty point tariff.
Upon conviction there can be a fine of up to £5,000, between 6-8 penalty points imposed on the licence and the court can impose discretionary driving ban. In Glasgow we have had a spate of short term driving bans imposed by magistrates who felt that this was entirely appropriate. In this type of offence significant factors for the court to consider are:-
- Was it deliberate (It is NOT A DEFENCE to say you didn’t realise, it had expired)
- Was it an error on your part
- How likely is it that it may occur again
Get a lawyer on board to help persuade the court that a ban is not the way to go. When consulting with your solicitor make sure you can explain WHY you ended up driving without insurance.
What about when I lend my car to a friend or if I let someone test drive the car when selling it? It is our view that you have a responsibility under the Act to examine an insurance document and satisfy yourself that one is in place whenever you let another person drive your vehicle. Sections 165 and 171 of the Road Traffic Act are worth reading to see how onerous the law can be on this matter.
However the prosecution have to prove ‘use’ to secure a conviction and that the offence took place on a public road or other such public place. Not always as simple as it may sound and it is therefore worthwhile getting a defence team that is fully aware of the latest cases relating to the definitions of “use” and “public place”
The Crown do not need to prove that you knew your insurance had run out. You need to show you were insured or explain in mitigation of your guilt why you did not have it.
Even if you think you have no defence to this charge seek legal advice before answering the copy complaint. It is too serious and complex an area to blunder in without a considered view.