Tuesday, October 07, 2014

You Can Lead A Horse To Water......

I have previously written about the increasing practice of disqualifying people from driving in their absence. This commonly happens when people tot up twelve penalty points, but do not attend the court, for whatever reason. The advice from our clerks is that we should proceed, but there is no hard and fast proof that the driver knows about his ban. Of course quite a few are playing the game, but quite a few are also unaware of the court's decision, because of the vagaries of the post (first class post is deemed to be good service as recorded delivery is too costly).

Today's defendant, a middle-class man of no previous convictions but with an unfortunately heavy right foot, insisted that he pleaded not guilty because he did not know that he had been disqualified. The duty solicitor, the prosecutor, and our legal adviser all told him that he did not have a defence in law, and that his claim amounted to no more than mitigation.

He was warned that a trial (in which he was likely to come a poor second) would involve about £600 in costs, whereas a guilty plea, in which he could put forward his mitigation would be £85.

I then went as far as I dared to give him a hint, saying "you have heard legal opinions from three experienced lawyers. We cannot advise you, but it seems to my colleagues and me that their advice is sensible and in your interests".

No dice. Trial listed.

You can lead a horse to water...........


  1. Seems to me that this is one of those issues that should be the same across the country. My bench never used to disqualify in absence and I know that others did. The sooner one of these gets to the appeal court, the better.

    Yes the post is good but even if a letter is put through a letterbox we have no way of knowing that the defendant received it. Despite all our training it still remains a sad fact that every so often our dog does, quite literally, eat an envelope and it's contents. We just find a few scraps of paper on the floor. How would I get a court to believe that?

  2. Sounds suspiciously like you had a defendant who still believed that the law existed to ensure that justice was done...
    I see so many clients who, in their innocence, believe actions can be justified and charges therefore expunged.
    It don't work like that, says I...

  3. Perhaps he thought it was worth £600 to have his day in court and tell the system of the unfairness of what had happened. I think I would do the same if I was in his position. If you think it's just about the money I think you've been in the game too long and lost sight of a few things, especially with such small sums as these.

    Luckily for me, I can afford the £600. It would of course be different if I couldn't afford it.

    PS: Where is our much vaunted HRA here? Surely it says something about being found guilty in the absence of the accused, that is, without a chance of defending himself in court?

  4. I don't know the figures for the number of drivers disqualified in absence, but I guess it isn't that many, so why not use recorded delivery (signed for) to avoid these sorts of issues?


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