New Drivers – Avoiding a No Insurance Ban

by DrivingOffenceBarrister on January 22, 2013

If you are a ‘new driver’ (not driving with a full licence for more than 2 years) and you are caught driving without insurance then the outcome is usually quite simple: your licence will be revoked. The reason for this is that new driver will be subject to this penalty upon endorsement of 6 points during their ‘probation period’. And driving without insurance carries a minimum penalty of 6 points. End of story?

Well, not necessarily. There are at least three layers of argument:

1. You were not ‘driving without insurance’ – if you have a valid policy of insurance in place then make sure that you disclose it early – you are under a duty to do so as the burden rests on you to establish that you were insured. Remember, this is a strict liability offence and your ‘state of mind’ is irrelevant. In short, your mistaken belief that you were insured is no defence. That said, it could be that the police accept that you were insured but will not accept that you were driving within its terms. This is a dispute of fact and is a basis for pleading guilty. Such arguments are difficult to run but can be successful and we have indeed achieved acquittals in cases of this nature;

2. You were in fact driving but with no insurance – yet your genuine understanding was that you were covered. In certain circumstances this can amount to ‘special reasons’ such that the court exercises its discretion not to endorse the licence with points. Again, this is not an argument to run without proper professional advice as the court’s are not usually minded to permit a driver to ‘circumvent’ the rules without proper persuasion and reason. The burden on the driver is high and so not easily discharged;

3. Instead of endorsing points you ask the court to impose a short disqualification. The court cannot do both because of certain driving ban rules so if a disqualification is imposed then there cannot be a penalty point endorsement. This may sound ‘counterintuitive’ or a ‘contradiction in terms’ but it really isn’t – if you get six points then your licence is revoked and you have to start again, driving test and all. If you are briefly disqualified you simply await its expiry and start driving again. This is also very difficult argument to run as the presumption in ‘totting up’ type cases is that the court will impose all the points and then disqualify/revoke.

So, if you find yourself in such a position, please do bear in mind that you need to act carefully as the Court’s starting point is that it is your duty to make sure you are insured and if you are not then you are guilty. Winning on a no insurance argument really is a question of tactics, contractual interpretation, getting your case in order and, bluntly, swimming against the stream. Professional advice is therefore key.

William McCarthy is a practising barrister with chambers in Manchester and London.

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