Blog

Our opinion on the legal world, and how it could affect you

Why Lord Howard will lose his Appeal against driving conviction

05th Dec 2016

Former Conservative Party Leader Michael Howard has been convicted of failing to say who was driving his car when it was caught by a speed camera.

Failing to give Driver Identity details

Lord Howard was convicted of failing to give information relating to the identification of a vehicle to the Metropolitan Police following receipt of a Notice of Intended Prosecution. He has said he will appeal against the conviction.

Lord Howard, 75, and his wife Sandra, 76, both claimed either could have been driving their Toyota Prius, which was caught on camera being driven at 37.3 mph in a 30mph limit.

The former Home Secretary had his licence endorsed with 6 Points (obligatory for this offence) and was fined £900 & ordered to pay £625 costs, plus a £90 victim surcharge.

The couple admitted that one of them had been driving the car at the time it was being driven along Lewisham Way, south east London on January 24th. Lord and Lady Howard were returning from a weekend at their Kent home in his former constituency of Folkestone and Hythe to their Westminster address. However, neither of them could remember which of them had been driving at the precise time the vehicle was caught exceeding the speed limit as they tended to take turns in driving even during the 65 mile journey.

 Lord Howard, himself a Queens Counsel, fought the case and even called his wife as a witness to back up his account. They argued that they had no set routine as to who would drive on this journey & would swap over if one of them had to read papers, deal with e mails etc.

The District Judge who dealt with the case did not criticise the couple's evidence, describing them both as 'credible.' The stumbling block, however, was that he should have completed the Notice with full details of who the other driver could have been, including name, age and address, rather than simply saying his 'wife.'

The Registered Keeper of any vehicle is required to use reasonable diligence to identify the driver of a vehicle & in this case it was decided that he had not gone as far as he should.

Frank Rogers Head of the Driving Offence Team at Brown Turner Ross commented:

"This is an interesting case & one that illustrates the pitfalls that lie in wait for every person who is the Registered Keeper of a vehicle. The Notice is poorly drafted and allows for only one person's details to be added if the person completing the Form was not the driver. It also carries a warning that giving inaccurate information can lead to prosecution which does worry people when they come to complete the Form.

I have dealt with numerous Trials across England & Wales on a variety of legal arguments arising out of the confusion the Form causes when people are genuinely not sure who was driving at any given time. Families may share a car & small businesses will often allow employees to use the business owner's car. In the case of a business they should really keep a Transport Log requiring employees to sign for the keys & give full details of when and where they took the vehicle.

The difficulty for Lord Howard comes in the shape of a decided case: Flegg v Justices of the Peace for the New Forest Local Justice Area decided by the Court of Appeal in 2006. This makes it clear that a Registered Keeper should provide as much information as possible when completing the Notice or risk being convicted. Accordingly, simply stating that the driver could "be one of 3 people" or that "the driver could have been my wife" is not sufficient to discharge the statutory duty imposed on the Registered Keeper. 

I would expect Lord Howard to lose on appeal.

The whole process is in need of radical reform so as to make it crystal clear to everyone what they should do if they are unable to identify the driver. Too many people are having 6 Points endorsed on their licence (& suffering financially) in circumstances where they have done what they think to be right. The Notice could & should be re drafted so as to avoid these injustices occurring in the future." 

If you want Free initial advice on any driving offence call Frank Rogers on 0800 195 7517