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Road Traffic Act
Driver identification and Human Rights

Please be sure to read this to the end. The story has changed several times over the last few months. Initial optimism proved unfounded.

A recent case doubted the validity of the rules by which a driver was served with a notice which required him to identify to the police the driver of the vehicle at a particular time when a traffic offence had been committed. If the person served was also the driver, then the system obliged a defendant to give evidence against himself or to face that risk. If these rules fail, then the whole system of speed camera checks is thrown into doubt. That system depends entirely upon the police having the right to be told who was driving so that a penalty notice can be issued.

Some hoped that the case would be appealed, but then became clear that the Government thought about accepting the inevitable, and new forms of notice were introduced. They are fascinating in the way that they were drafted. They anticipated having to conceded the point.

The forms are in the Road Traffic (Owner Liability) Regulations 2000 (Number 2546), which actually came into force on 16th October. They contain a notable distinction between forms where the owner is warned that it is a criminal offence to fail to answer the question and the two forms in question relating to the identification of the driver.

The main one is the form FP3 which would be issued under section 63 (6) of the Road Traffic Offenders Act, and the relevant part reads “Part a (this may be completed by the owner if he was the driver when the offence specified in the fixed penalty notice is alleged to have been committed). It then gives an alternative which would name the actual driver on the day.

The form emphasises that the result can be used in evidence, and that it will be an offence to furnish a false statement. It does not positively suggest what is the case, which is there is no obligation to complete the form. You can see it hoping that people will not read it too carefuly.

Even more confusion. The courts have again fought back, and the case of Stott (Procurator Fiscal, Dunfermline) and Another v Brown (PC Times 6-Dec-2000) decided that the system under which the registered keeper of a vehicle was obliged to identify herself as the driver, and such admission was to be used subsequently as evidence against her on a charge of driving with excess alcohol, was not a breach of her right to a fair trial. The right not to give evidence against oneself was not an explicit, nor absolute right, and was subject to qualification. A balance was to be found between the right to a fair trial, and the need to respond to a serious problem in society. The response was not disproportionate.

It should be noted that as a Privy Council decision, there is no further appeal. What happens to the regulations described above is moot. It may simply be that they will not be brought into effect .

Important: Please note that our law-bytes are retained for archival purposes only. The law changes, and these notes are often, now, out of date. You must take direct advice on your own personal situation and the law as it currently stands.
All information on this site is in general and summary form only. The content of any page on this site may be out of date and or incomplete, and you should not not rely directly upon it. Take direct professional legal advice which reflects your own particular situation.
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Copyright and Database Rights: David Swarbrick 2012
18 October 2013 360 18 October 2013