Technology has been developed by the DVLA and the Home Office for police officers to use at the roadside to confirm the identity of a driver.
The technology allows instant access to a photograph of the driver. The picture is held on the DVLA driver’s database, and immediate access is provided to officers dealing with motoring offences.
The technology is currently being used by 18 police forces, with a plan to roll it out to a further ten forces over the next few weeks.
The real reason for the development of the technology is to speed up processes. At the moment, it can take up to sixteen minutes for an officer to confirm a person’s identity. An officer may have to conduct further checks on the information given by a driver, and in some cases, it can lead to a person’s arrest for their identity to be verified.
The use of the technology is currently limited to motoring offences and was first piloted in the summer of 2019. In the time to June 2021, the following benefits are said to have occurred:
- 14,000 hours saved by Road Police Unit Officers and local Policing Officers
- roadside checks are 66% faster, meaning less time wasted by drivers
- the police accessed 86,513 images to identify drivers at the roadside.
The system works by the officer searching the police national computer (also known as PNC) for the driving licence number, which is unique to the individual. That is used to obtain the correct image from the DVLA, which can be checked with the driver. The image is only accessible during the check and is not retained. The access to DVLA records is confined to use for the purpose of enforcing road traffic offences.
The 18 forces currently using the technology are:
- The City of London Police
- Police Scotland
- South Yorkshire
- West Yorkshire
- Devon and Cornwall
More technological advances are planned, including the digitalisation of provisional driving licences to be assessed before looking at a digital licence for full licence holders.
During lockdown, the DVLA also introduced new digital services for transactions. These include an online application for a tachograph card, a digitalisation of paper-based prosecutions, and an online service to change an address on a vehicle log book (V5C).
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If you need specialist advice in relation to any driving offences, criminal investigation or prosecution, from the initial investigation through to court proceedings, please get in touch. Call John Howey on 020 7388 1658 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Let us help.[Image credit: Crown Copyright ] Read More
Peter Marrable was summonsed to court for speeding. The allegation was that he had driven at 72mph in a temporary 50mph zone.
The police produced evidence of the speed from a ‘Trucam’ device that was approved, calibrated and operating correctly.
Mr Marrable produced evidence from a GPS tracker that was fitted to his company vehicle. The tracker showed a speed of 53-54mph.
The magistrates had to decide if they were satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Mr Marrable had been speeding. They decided that the GPS tracker cast sufficient doubt as to the correct speed, so they did not convict him.
Is this a new defence to a speeding charge?
No, there is nothing new in driving offence law that is raised by this case.
In 1987 the case of Cracknell v Willis was heard. Cracknell was accused of driving while over the limit for alcohol. In the Magistrates’ Court, he wanted to produce evidence of the amount of alcohol he had consumed in order to show that the police intoximeter machine was defective. The Magistrates refused to allow him to produce the evidence and convicted him. Cracknell sought an opinion from the High Court.
The High Court considered the issue of how far, if at all, and by what evidence, a motorist was entitled to challenge the reliability of the machine.
The Magistrates had not heard any technical evidence to say the machine was not working correctly. They said that they were bound to follow the case of Hughes v McConnell and refused to allow Cracknell to give evidence of the alcohol he had consumed.
Hughes v McConnell
In Hughes v McConnell the Magistrates had acquitted the defendant of drink driving after he gave evidence that he had only drunk 3 cokes and 3 bitter shandies. The prosecution attacked that decision on the ground that the defence evidence was inadmissible to challenge the accuracy of the breath test. The Divisional Court held that the validity and accuracy of the machine could not be challenged by evidence of the amount of alcohol consumed. The effectiveness could only have been attacked was by way of direct evidence of imperfection.
Back in Cracknell’s case, the Court considered the evidence that could be given. The Court concluded that no machine is infallible and if a challenge was limited to direct evidence of malfunction, it would mean the machine was treated as being virtually infallible.
The Court provided the analogy of a teetotal bishop having dinner with two other bishops. He is stopped on the way home and provides a positive breath sample. The bishop should be allowed the opportunity to call the two bishops as witnesses to give evidence he had not consumed alcohol, and for the magistrates to draw the inference that the machine must be unreliable. They concluded that the decision in Hughes was wrong.
Can anyone just give evidence of their speed?
Technically yes, but you may not be believed.
The Court in Cracknell went on to say that evidence that could reasonably suggest the machine was unreliable was admissible. This did not mean that defendants could challenge a breach analysis by “spurious evidence of their consumption of alcohol”.
In 1982 in Kent v Stamps the defendant gave evidence that his lorry was not capable of reaching 40mph, as alleged, on the particular road. He was acquitted as the magistrates found there was a doubt. However, it was described as a very borderline case by the higher court.
When it comes to driving offences, the court will use its good sense to consider all of the evidence before it. The case of Marrable does not mean that any evidence from a GPS will always be accepted. It simply means that such evidence can be considered, as in the case of Cracknell.
If you are accused of speeding and know that you were not, get in touch. Your case is not as hopeless as some lawyers would have you believe.
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If you need specialist advice in relation to any criminal investigation or prosecution, from the initial investigation through to court proceedings, please get in touch. Call John Howey on 020 7388 1658 or email email@example.com. Let us help.Read More
The Government has published new plans to increase road safety. The idea is to make the roads safer for everyone; drivers, passengers and pedestrians . The plans include several changes for people of all ages, and for more specialised drivers like HGV drivers and motorcycle riders.
The Department for Transport has granted funding of £225,000 to Good Egg Safety to develop a training course for fitting child seats. This is because information suggests that most parents don’t know how to install a child seat correctly.
Additional funding will go towards developing educational resources for schools and researching road safety for children with special education needs.
The largest at-risk age group on the road is young adults. Therefore, the Department for Transport is considering ways to make young drivers safer. This includes consulting on several new learning and licence schemes; the potential use of Graduated Learner Schemes pre-test, and Graduated Driving Licences post-test.
The USA, Canada and Australia already uses these schemes and licences. The pre-test scheme imposes requirements for a learner before they can take their test. This is usually a certain number of hours of instruction. The post-test scheme involves restrictions on a new licence for several years or until a certain age.
In California, for example, new drivers under eighteen cannot drive unsupervised at night, carry passengers under 20 unless supervised, or use mobile phones including hands-free devices.
One change along these lines recently in the UK was for the revocation of a new driver’s licence. The licence will be revoked if six penalty points are acquired within two years of their test. A new driver getting six points will have to re-sit their test.
Driving tests will also continue to be updated to take into account technological changes. This is similar to the recent move to include satnav driving in the test.
The Government will consult on the use of penalty points for people who don’t use their seatbelt, as well as the current fine. 27% of fatalities on the road in 2017 involving people not wearing a seatbelt.
Portable breathalysers are being developed, meaning police officers will be able to take a sample that is good enough for court proceedings at the side of the road. At the moment, a driver takes a preliminary test at the roadside, followed by an official test at the police station. The proposal would free up officers for other duties quicker.
The Government is also researching the feasibility of ‘alcolocks’. This is a device which immobilises a car until someone under the limit blows into a tube. These would be introduced for those convicted of drink-driving to try and prevent re-offending.
New cycling offences are also being considered so that those who cause serious harm can be dealt with in a similar way to those who cause serious harm by driving.
The second-largest at-risk age group on our roads are the elderly; the Government will continue to fund Mobility Centres for those who are unable to drive, most of whom are sixty-five or over.
Safety tests will also be updated, using old-age crash test dummies, as well as female dummies. This is in a bid to reduce injuries in those groups by allowing cars to be designed differently.
A consultation will also be launched into whether to require drivers to undertake mandatory eye tests at seventy, and upon licence renewal every three years thereafter.
Drivers who drive for a living are already tightly regulated by the use of tachographs and more stringent testing. The Government will consult on banning tyres older than ten years, as well as on changes to side guards, which protect pedestrians and cyclists if the HGV changes direction while alongside someone.
The Government will develop a new training regime for bikers. This will include a compulsory theory test before they can ride on the road, and changes to the current CBT (Compulsory Basic Training). They also plan to develop post-test training further and increase the uptake of this Enhanced Rider Scheme.
Better protective equipment is also under development, and the SHARP system of rating helmets is being continued and improved. The Government are also working with the UK protective clothing industry to understand how to encourage riders to wear the best equipment.
How we can assist
If you need specialist advice in relation to any driving offences, criminal investigation or prosecution, then please get in touch. Call John Howey on 020 7388 1658 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and let us help. We can advise on all aspects of your case.Read More
The idea of speed limits causes immense confusion, with many people believing that the speed limit is at least the minimum speed you should ordinarily drive at.
Most of us have experienced the rage of a motorist behind us if we adhere to the limit. A step below it to any degree can often cause outrage.
In reality, however, the safe speed is always linked to the conditions. We need to factor in lighting, road conditions, traffic etc., while keeping an eye on the overall speed limit.
But, just how strictly are those limits enforced?
Research published recently by Auto Express magazine showed that most police forces adopt a 10% +2 policy, so if the speed limit is 40 miles per hour (mph), there will be no fixed penalty or prosecution unless the speed exceeds 46 mph. Interestingly some police forces, including Greater Manchester and the West-Midlands among others, refused to confirm the margin. Lancashire Police and the Metropolitan Police stated that they adopt 10% +3. Essex said they operate no threshold, and several other forces refused to say anything about the issue.
Even where a margin of error is allowed for, this would not preclude a prosecution if the police wished to pursue one. So unless you are going to drive around with a current and comprehensive list of speed policies in your head, the safe course is to stick to the limit.
As well as exploring police policies to speed, the research also disclosed that car speedometers typically display a speed which is 1 or 2 mph above the actual speed of the vehicle. This again provides some welcome tolerance for those times when you might not be fully observing the applicable limit.
But speeding isn’t really a crime is it?
In criminal law terms, speeding is often seen at the bottom of the list when compared to other crimes. Despite the relative low penalties, those points can soon hit the magic 12. At that point, the risk of disqualification can become very real for many people. Even gaining 6 points can mean some new drivers forfeiting their licence. Speeding far in excess of the limit can result in instant disqualification. In some circumstances, you could end up being charged with a more serious offence such as dangerous driving.
When looking at the more serious offences, in particular causing death by careless or dangerous driving, we see that excess speed is often a feature highlighted by the prosecution. What starts as nothing other than a rush to get home can soon become an unintended tragedy for all concerned.
How we can assist
If you need specialist driving offences advice, then get in touch with John Howey on 020 7388 1658 and let us help. We deal with all manner of road traffic offences on a daily basis. Our team has the expertise to get you the best result possible.Read More
Once again, there have been numerous news stories this week about deaths and serious injuries caused by bad driving.
There is a specific offence of dangerous driving, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 2 years. However, if that driving is a cause of someone’s death, the maximum sentence rises to one of 14 years. Since 2012, if the dangerous driving results in serious injury, then the maximum sentence is one of 5 years.
In each case there are minimum disqualification periods, very lengthy actual disqualifications and insurance premiums which will be significant for many years to come; some drivers may not even be able to secure insurance at all, at any price.
What is dangerous driving?
Dangerous driving is defined by section 2A Road Traffic Act 1988:
“…a person is to be regarded as driving dangerously if (and, subject to subsection (2) below, only if)—
(a) the way he drives falls far below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver, and
(b) it would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving in that way would be dangerous.
The test is an ‘objective one’ which means that it is not to be judged through the eyes of the actual driver but the eyes of a ‘competent and careful driver’. Effectively, therefore, it will be for a magistrate/judge, or jury to decide.
The crucial part of the test is that the driving falls ‘far below’ the standard expected, and it is this that on occasion makes advising in these cases such a very skilled task.
In some instances, it will be obvious that the driving falls ‘far below’ the required standard. So, if you drive at 100 mph on the wrong side of the motorway at night without lights, there is no room for debate.
But, what if, believing that you have sufficient sight of the road ahead, you overtake only to hit an oncoming vehicle in the opposite lane. Is that driving ‘far below’ the standard, or it is simply an unfortunate error of judgment, one that could perhaps be properly categorised as careless driving not dangerous?
There is no statutory definition of what is meant by “far below”, but section 2A(3) of the 1988 Act states that “dangerous” must refer to the danger of personal injury or serious damage to property.
We also know from case law that the driver’s particular skill or lack of is not relevant (Bannister  EWCA Crim 1571).
The Crown Prosecution Service regards the following as being examples of dangerous driving, but it must be stressed that ultimately it will be a matter for the court to decide:
- racing or competitive driving;
- failing to have proper and safe regard for vulnerable road users such as cyclists, motorcyclists, horse riders, the elderly and pedestrians or when in the vicinity of a pedestrian crossing, hospital, school or residential home;
- speed, which is particularly inappropriate for the prevailing road or traffic conditions;
- aggressive driving, such as sudden lane changes, cutting into a line of vehicles or driving much too close to the vehicle in front;
- disregard of traffic lights and other road signs, which, on an objective analysis, would appear to be deliberate;
- disregard of warnings from fellow passengers;
- overtaking which could not have been carried out safely;
- driving when knowingly suffering from a medical or physical condition that significantly and dangerously impairs the offender’s driving skills such as having an arm or leg in plaster, or impaired eyesight. It can include the failure to take prescribed medication;
- driving when knowingly deprived of adequate sleep or rest;
- driving a vehicle knowing it has a dangerous defect or is poorly maintained or is dangerously loaded;
- using a hand-held mobile phone or other hand-held electronic equipment whether as a phone or to compose or read text messages when the driver was avoidably and dangerously distracted by that use; R v Browning (2001) EWCA Crim 1831, R v Payne  EWCA Crim 157;
- driving whilst avoidably and dangerously distracted such as whilst reading a newspaper/map, talking to and looking at a passenger, selecting and lighting a cigarette or by adjusting the controls of electronic equipment such as a radio, hands-free mobile phone or satellite navigation equipment;
- a brief but obvious danger arising from a seriously dangerous manoeuvre. This covers situations where a driver has made a mistake or an error of judgement that was so substantial that it caused the driving to be dangerous even for only a short time. Cases that illustrate this principle include:
Att.Gens’ Reference No 32 of 2001 (2002) 1 Cr.App.R. (S) 121 (offender failed to stop at a junction where there was a give way sign, failing to see a taxi that was being driven across the junction perfectly properly and colliding with it);
Att.Gen’s Reference No 4 of 2000 2000]) EWCA Crim 780 (offender unintentionally pressed the accelerator instead of the brake);
Att.Gen’s Reference No.76 of 2002 (Hodges) (2003) 1 Cr.App.R. (S) 100 (offender drove across a junction marked by a give way sign and collided with a car that was being driven along the major road and had no explanation for his failure to see the other car) “this was a single misjudgement. It was a bad misjudgement but nevertheless a single one”
Some of the examples in the above list may seem surprising, for example where a person unintentionally pressed the accelerator instead of the brake. Again, it is worth stressing that much will depend on what actually happened, with concepts such as ‘…even for only a short time…’ being open to argument.
Similarly, when does ‘…failing to have proper and safe regard…’ (a legal duty anyway) stray over the line from being careless driving to dangerous driving?
And finally, is ‘overtaking which could not have been carried out safely…’ something that is inherently in danger of being judged by hindsight?
In stressful situations, particularly where serious harm has been caused, there is an instinctive reaction to think that the driving error must have been very serious.
What we know of course is that on occasion even the slightest error can result in very serious consequences. It is therefore vital that if you are going to be interviewed by police after an accident that you have legal representation from the outset.
It does not matter if you are arrested or have been asked to go for an interview under caution (a Caution +3 interview), legal advice and assistance at a police station is free of charge, regardless of your financial means.
Accident investigation and reconstruction is now an important consideration in these cases, allowing scientists and engineers to see exactly the cause(s) of an accident and the magnitude of error, often exposing the culpability of others.
Eye-witness testimony is not always reliable and is also often tainted by the result of the driving as opposed to the driving itself.
In some cases, it will be clear-cut, but there may still be room for manoeuvre and a plea to the lesser offence of careless driving may be an option.
How we can assist
Whether facing imprisonment or not, the loss of a driving licence is for many people an incredibly serious penalty in itself, so all steps should be taken to avoid that happening.
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From June 4th, learner drivers are to be allowed to drive on the motorway. This is to encourage learner drivers to develop an understanding of how to drive on roads that are vastly different from the urban environment that most people learn to drive in.
There will be conditions attached though. Unlike non-motorway roads, where a learner must simply be supervised by someone aged over 21 who has held a full driving licence for at least three years, a learner on the motorway will have to be supervised by a qualified driving instructor, and be driving a dual control car.
There are no plans to introduce motorway driving into the driving test, and it will be left to the instructor and the learner to decide if they want to take advantage of this change.
Younger, inexperienced drivers are significantly more likely to be killed or seriously injured whilst driving than older drivers, and it is to be hoped that providing learner drivers with motorway experience may help reduce those numbers.
In other driving news, more than 26,000 motorists have been caught using a handheld mobile phone while driving in the first year since harsher penalties came into force.
Among these are 500 novice drivers who have had their licences revoked for using their phone behind the wheel in their first 2 years of driving. Drivers who acquire 6 penalty points in their first two years of driving have their licence revoked and have to retake their test.
On 1 March 2017, the penalties for this offence doubled from £100 and 3 penalty points to £200 and 6 points.”
If you have a query about a driving offence or matter, please contact John Howey on 020 7388 1658 or firstname.lastname@example.orgRead More