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Appealing Fixed Penalty Notices

Posted by admin on Feb 26, 2015 in Latest News

How they work

An increasing number of offences are now dealt with my way of a Fixed Penalty Notice. Offences can cover anything from vehicle defects, through to tachograph offences or no insurance.

Action to Take – Payment or Appeal to Court

Advice should be sought immediately from a specialist transport solicitor on any occasion a Fixed Penalty Notice is received.

Operators and drivers should consider carefully what to do regarding a Fixed Penalty Notice.  It is all too easy just to pay the small fine and not challenge it, even when you are innocent of the alleged offence.

However, both operators and drivers need to consider the regulatory action which could result from just paying the fixed penalty.  In other words, for an operator it could lead to a Public Inquiry and for a driver it could lead to Driver Disciplinary Hearing.  Both could result in disciplinary action being taken on the respective licences of the company or driver, which could include either suspension or loss of the licence.

Anyone receiving a fixed penalty notice has up to 28 days to decide whether to appeal it or pay it.  If you appeal the notice, then a court summons will be issued in due course and you are able to then put forward your defence at Court.

Going to Court

To appeal the matter to Court, individuals need to complete the relevant section of the fixed penalty notice and return it to VOSA/Police without any payment.  This must be done within 28 days of the notice being issued.

 
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Assisting operators with DVSA investigations

Posted by admin on Feb 26, 2015 in Latest News

If the DVSA has arranged to come to your operating centre to look at your records or has arranged to have an interview with you under caution (PACE interview) then you need to be best prepared.  These are important situations which can have serious consequences for your business.

 

If either of these events has, or are about to happen, then you need to appreciate that you are high up on the DVSA’s radar.   You are at risk of facing a thorough investigation, prosecution or a Public Inquiry and, in many instance, all three.

 

You should comprehensively review your internal systems for ensuring compliance.

 

You should to seek specialist advice at the earliest opportunity.  Time and money invested at this stage will prevent, or minimise, costs at a later date.

 

With its experience of the whole process from investigation through to public inquiry, Dyne Solicitors is best placed to help you make the whole process as risk free and stress free as possible.

 
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Defending Prosecutions

Posted by admin on Feb 26, 2015 in Latest News

Receiving a Summons

 

Generally, the first notification of a hearing is the summons which normally arrives in the post.  The correspondence will set out the details of where and when the case is to be heard.

 

The summons sets out the alleged offence and the date and location it is said to have occurred.  It is also likely that the prosecution includes its evidence, such as witness statements, photographs, weighbridge results or tachographs – depending on the offence.  The summons will also outline the prosecution costs which are being asked for.

 

Most traffic offences will be dealt with in the Magistrates Court but some more serious offences, such as death by dangerous driving, will end up in the Crown Court.

Attending Court

 

Most Court hearings will be listed at either 10am or 2pm.  Often a number of matters are listed at the same time and so defendants will have to wait around until their case is heard.

Who decides your case?

 

If the case is heard in the Magistrates’ Court then the matter will be heard by either three magistrates or a District Judge.

 

The three magistrates are usually lay people and aren’t legally trained, whilst District Judges will be qualified lawyers.  Both magistrates and District Judges are assisted by a legal advisor, whose job it is to ensure that procedures are adhered to and that the magistrates are properly directed as to the law.

Entering plea

 

At the first hearing, a defendant is usually expected to enter either a Guilty or Not Guilty plea.  In unusual circumstances, no plea may be entered and the hearing adjourned.

 

If a Guilty plea is entered then it is likely that sentencing will take place that day.

 

If a Not Guilty plea is entered, then the matter will be adjourned for either a Case Management Hearing (prior to Trial) or a Trial .

 

A defendant can change their plea from Not Guilty to Guilty at any time they wish, but the earlier they enter a Guilty plea the more discount they will receive on their sentence.

The Trial / Sentencing Hearing

 

In both situations, the prosecution will set out its case first.  If it is a trial then this will be actioned through witnesses giving evidence.  If it is a sentencing hearing then the prosecutor will just read a summary of the facts of the case.

 

Next, the defence will put its case forward.  If this is a trial then it will, again, introduce evidence through witnesses.  If it is a sentencing hearing then the defence will just be providing mitigation which may, or may not, require the use of witnesses.

 

The decision

 

The magistrates or district Judge may well retire at the end of the case to make their decision, In complex cases you may not learn the outcome until a few weeks later but this is rare.

 

Once the magistrates or district judge have made their decision they will return to the court room to pronounce their decision.

Potential sentences

 

There are sentencing guidelines in the magistrates’ courts which provide rules on the type of sentence each offence should receive.  Depending on the positive and negative features of the particular offence,  the sentence will move up or down the range of available sentences.

 

An experienced lawyer should know what evidence is likely to persuade a court that an offence should be dealt with leniently and what evidence is not important.  The unrepresented individual may have some great mitigation to explain why they committed the offence but not appreciate its relevance and therefore leaving themselves with a more severe punishment than they deserve because it is never communicated to the Court.

 

The major difference between the driver and operator of a commercial vehicle and a private motorist lies in the fact that any conviction arising out of the use of a commercial vehicle may be reported to the Traffic Commissioner and there may be further sanctions, including the loss of an Operator’s licence. The action taken by the Traffic Commissioner will depend upon the nature of the offence, and, of course, the size of the penalty will be seen as a clear indicator of the perceived gravity of the incident.

 

The transport operator is, therefore, in a unique situation facing the possibility of a double penalty for a single offence: with the potential for the second penalty to have a far greater impact than the first.

 

Notwithstanding that threat, an operator can see many offences as being no more than part and parcel of the risks arising from the daily operation of commercial vehicles and, for that reason, will want to spend as little time and money on the problem as possible, but the fact that a conviction is likely to be reported should never be forgotten.

 

Another very real risk arises from the fact that many judges, understandably, have no knowledge either of the workings of a commercial vehicle, or of the administrative requirements of a haulage undertaking. Add to this, the fact that commercial vehicles and their drivers are always portrayed in the worst possible light and generally are blamed for any problem on the road. Unhappily many courts appear to welcome the opportunity to ‘strike a blow for the public’ and impose penalties that are disproportionate to the alleged offence.

 

It is against this background that an operator needs to decide whether or not the cost of representation in the court is likely to be justified by the result. The purpose of representation is to try to make sure that the court understands the circumstances in which the alleged offence came to be committed. In a case of overloading, for instance, whether in relation to the permitted axle weight or to the permitted train weight, the load may have been put on the vehicle many miles away from the operating centre, and it is not unknown for a customer to mis-describe the weight of a load.

 

Equally, the responsibility for the repair of, or for the maintenance of, a vehicle may have been contracted out to a company whose reputation was excellent even if a subsequent check by the enforcement authorities found faults.

 

These facts need to be explained to the court in sufficient detail to enable the court to understand the difficulties faced by the operator. It should be the job of the representative to persist with the explanation even if the court is initially hostile. It is arguable that a court appearance should be seen as an opportunity to educate both the court and the public. The fact is that the cost of representation is nearly always a justifiable expense

 

 
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How many cameras are watching motorists?

Posted by admin on Feb 26, 2015 in Latest News

As you drive down the motorway, have you thought that there seem to be a lot of cameras monitoring your journey?

Well, that’s because there are!  There are approximately 20 different kinds of devices in use on British roads.  Here we try to explain what they are and how they work:

 

  • DS2

 

These speed cameras are semi-permanent installations and can cover two lanes of traffic travelling in different directions. DS2 traffic cameras can be attended or left unattended whilst enforcing the speed limit.

DS2 speed camera sites work via three piezo strips either on top of the road surface or embedded within the surface of the road. The piezo sensors are set approximately 1m apart and are accompanied by a short grey post on the roadside. When in use the DS2 site is connected to the safety camera partnership van or unmarked car. Autovision can then be used to provide video evidence of the speeding offence. Alternatively, the Police will operate with a police car further along the road, and a message will be sent with details of the offending vehicles registration details to stop and issue the speeding offence.

 

  • DVLA and DVSA Cameras

 

The DVSA has a network of mobile and static cameras to monitor whether goods vehicles have paid the HGV Road User Levy.

 

  • Gatso

 

These are rear-facing speed cameras.  They work by emitting a radio signal which bounces back off your vehicle.  The time between the signal being sent and the reflection is measured.  A second radio signal is sent out and the time recorded.  The vehicle speed is calculated using this information.  A photograph is taken and automatically sent to the enforcement office.

 

  • Hadecs 3

 

These were introduced by the Highways Agency and record average speed over a specific distance.  Hadecs are used to patrol sections of the motorway with variable the speed limits e.g. M1, M6 and M25. They enforce reductions in the limit in an effort to keep the traffic flowing during busy times. This is the ‘smart’ motorway ideal.

 

  • Highways Agency CCTV

 

The Highways Agency has 1,500 cameras to assist with management of traffic.  The Cameras record traffic flow and how roads cope with it, but they don’t store data on individual vehicles.

 

  • Mobile Camera

 

These are devices held by police officers on the side of the road or mounted in a van.  They use either laser or radar technology to catch speeding vehicles.

 

  • Peek

 

These use radar to measure your speed and are similar to a Gatso.  They will take a picture of the rear of your vehicle if you are speeding.

 

  • Police Automatic Number Plate Recognition

 

These record number plates of every passing vehicle.  The information can be accessed for up to two years and is used to help detect, deter and disrupt criminality.

 

  • SPECS

 

These are average speed cameras which are equipped with Automatic Number Plate Recognition.  They photograph every vehicle which passes beneath them.  The information is sent to another set of cameras further down the road.  The time it takes for a vehicle to pass between the two points is used to calculate the vehicle speed.

 

  • SpeedCurb

 

These work by sensors embedded in the road triggering a camera to take a photograph when a vehicle passes over them too quickly. The cameras use three piezo sensors embedded into the road which are spaced out by 1 metre. When a vehicle drives over the sensors the time between each sensor is time

They are often used to monitor traffic light offences as well as speeding offences

 

  • SpeedSpike

 

These are currently on trial in Hampshire and uses Automatic Number Plate Recognition.  Each time your vehicle passes the camera, the number plate is read and time-stamped together with the camera’s information.  The 1000 cameras can be linked so as to monitor your whole journey on main roads across the country in a similar way to an average speed camera on the motorway.

 

  • Traffic light Camera

 

These take a photograph of any vehicle which passes through a set of traffic lights which are on red.

 

  • TrafficMaster

 

These cameras measure traffic speeds and congestion.  They are operated by a private company. If you have TrafficMaster, the information is sent to your Sat Nav to enable it to advise you of a better route.

 

  • Truvelo

 

These are forward facing speed cameras.  They do not ‘flash’ in the same way as a Gatso.   There are four sensors in the road which when driven over measure the vehicle speed.  These are linked to the camera which, because they are forward facing, will show the face of the driver on the images.

 

  • Truvelo d-Cam

 

These are updated versions of the Truvelo.  The only difference being that the images are transmitted automatically to the enforcement office without the need for a person to collect and replace the film.

 

  • Vector

 

These speed cameras work in the same way as SPECS speed cameras by measuring the average speed of your vehicle between two or more locations by using Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR).  They were launched in 2014.

They can also help with bus lane enforcement, red light enforcement, yellow box violations, and congestion charging.

 

  • Watchmen

 

Watchman speed cameras are rear facing roadside cameras similar to Gatso speed cameras.  They use radar to detect speeding vehicles. They are currently on trial awaiting type approval, prior to a national installation programme. They also feature a second camera for Number Plate Recognition.

Conclusions

Whether you like them or hate them, cameras are here to stay.  This is good evidence of their benefits.  Independent research by Professor Allsop, of University College London, found that:

 

  • Deployment of speed cameras leads to appreciable reductions in speed in the vicinity of the cameras, and substantial reductions in collisions and casualties there over and above the likely effect of regression to the mean.

 

A review of 35 studies worldwide of the efficacy of speed cameras concluded that:

‘the consistency of reported reductions in speed and crash outcomes across all studies show that speed cameras are a worthwhile intervention for reducing the number of road traffic injuries and deaths.”

For advice on transport law, contact Jared Dunbar at Dyne Solicitors on 01829 773 100.

Content is believed to be correct at time of writing.  Content written on 29.01.15.

 

 
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Successfully beating a speeding ticket

Posted by admin on Feb 26, 2015 in Latest News

A driver who was issued with a speeding ticket recently managed to successfully defend himself.

The driver was alleged to have been travelling at 36 mph in a 30 mph zone.  After receiving a photograph of the incident, he visited the location of the alleged offence.  Whilst there he noticed that the distance between the white road markings used to calculate his speed seemed short. On measuring them, it turned out they were approximately three inches shorter than they should have been.

The magistrates’ court accepted that the shorter lines made it appear that he was going faster than he actually was and the case was dismissed.

Jared Dunbar comments: “this case highlights the benefits of thoroughly investigating the details of an alleged offence, particularly when you are certain you didn’t commit that offence.  Fortunately this driver did this and successfully challenged his ticket.  However, not all members of the public will know the rules adequately to be able to undertake such a process themselves.  It shows there is merit in investigating prosecutions thoroughly before blindly paying a fine.  Although it is often difficult to challenge the veracity of a machine, it goes to confirm the adage of Garbage In, Garbage Out.

For advice on transport law, contact Jared Dunbar at Dyne Solicitors on 01829 773 100.

Content is believed to be correct at time of writing.  Content written on 22.01.15.

 

 
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MOT Consultation

Posted by admin on Feb 26, 2015 in Latest News

Consultation on the Exemptions from the Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) Roadworthiness Testing Scheme

The Department for Transport is proposing to remove or modify the exemptions to the requirement to be fitted with a Ministry Plate and undergo an annual roadworthiness test (MOT).  This covers 10 different categories of vehicle and is estimated to affect approximately 40,000 vehicles, including breakdown vehicles, mobile cranes and road construction vehicles.

These are the same exemptions as were proposed in 2009/10, although at least two exemptions are now proposed for modification rather than removal as a result of the new EU Directive.

The removal of the exemptions may affect the legal operating weight of certain vehicles: these include Mobile Batching Plant (Volumetrics) and Mobile Concrete Pumps.

The consultation closes in early March and those affected by the changes are entitled to respond to the consultation.  The consultation can be found at:

www.gov.uk/government/consultations/hgv-periodic-testing-and-inspections-exemptions

For advice on transport law, contact Jared Dunbar at Dyne Solicitors on 01829 773 100.

Content is believed to be correct at time of writing.  Content written on 22.01.15.

 

 
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End of driving licence counterpart

Posted by admin on Feb 26, 2015 in Latest News

The DVLA’s business plan 2014-15 confirms that the DVLA will stop issuing the paper-based counterpart to the photocard driving licence from January 2015.

This proposal was first announced in 2011 and was seen as an attempt to minimise red tape and expenditure for motorists and the authorities. At the time, Transport Secretary, Justine Greening, said: “Motorists shouldn’t have to keep numerous bits of paper just to prove they can drive and have bought insurance – we live in a digital age and we need to embrace that.”

No action will be required by drivers, although they will be permitted to destroy the counterpart if they so choose. The photocard element will remain valid and unchanged

The DVLA’s online driver enquiry service will provide customers with a 24/7 online access to their driver entitlements. This service will replace the requirement for a paper counterpar.t

For advice on any transport law issues, contact Jared Dunbar on 01829 773 105

Contents believed to be correct at time of writing and article written on 23.09.14

 

 
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DVSA driver warning for 7.5T

Posted by admin on Feb 26, 2015 in Latest News

DVSA warns Drivers they can’t drive a 7.5T vehicle

even if they have the entitlement on their licence,

without a Driver CPC

The DVSA has recently warned drivers that they can’t legally drive a 7.5T vehicle professionally, even if the entitlement is showing on their driving licence, unless they have completed the Driver CPC.

Drivers issued with a car licence before 1996 automatically have a C1 entitlement on their licence.  This allows them to drive a vehicle up to 7.5T professionally.  However, since the introduction of the Driver CPC this month, the entitlement no longer exists unless a driver has completed the Driver CPC training (or is exempt for some reason).

For advice on any transport law issues, contact Jared Dunbar on 01829 773 105

Contents believed to be correct at time of writing and article written on 22.09.14

 
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Mobile Phone Article

Posted by admin on Feb 26, 2015 in Latest News

IS THE MOST SERIOUS DRIVING OFFENCE

NOW TEXTING WHILST DRIVING?

Recently a family of three were killed in a road traffic accident with a commercial vehicle. The subsequent investigation established that, at the time of the accident, the driver was texting. Research suggests that a driver who is texting is 23 times more likely to have an accident.

The increasing awareness of the dangers of texting whilst driving means that, in the case of a serious road traffic accident, the Police are likely to look at the records of any relevant mobile phone, and, of course, it is increasingly easy to examine the call history of any mobile phone.

Additionally it should not be forgotten that the employer of the driver of a commercial vehicle will, at the very least, share the responsibility if the driver’s use of a mobile phone contributed to the accident and the use occurred whilst the driver was working for the employer.

Every employer should have a clear written policy dealing with the use of mobile phones whilst working. This policy should be reviewed and up-dated at reasonable intervals. It should also be possible to show that it has been given to every employee, possibly by getting a signature from each employee confirming receipt of the policy.

The employer should have a record of every mobile phone held, and used, by an employee, with the number and a description of the phone i.e. standard, smart- phone, or android.

There should be written instructions given to those working in the traffic office, or to those responsible for giving drivers delivery or collection instructions, to ensure that there will be no occasions during the course of the working day when the driver of a vehicle will be expected to have a conversation on a mobile phone whilst they are driving.

Clearly it may be necessary to speak to a driver in the course of a day but this should always be at pre-arranged times when the vehicle is stationary. The driver, of course, should know that no call should be made whilst the vehicle is moving. For this purpose, the vehicle will be deemed to be moving if it is stationary with the engine running.

It is clearly difficult to supervise drivers when they are away from base. This is particularly true if a driver receives a call from home, or from a close friend whilst they are driving, or needs to make a call of his own. The fact remains however that if an accident is found to have been caused, or contributed to, by the use of a mobile phone, the employer may find that he is being expected to share the blame.

The only available defence may be persuasive evidence to show that there has been specific training for employees dealing with the dangers that can arise from the use of a mobile phone. Any employee who is likely to use a vehicle in the course of their employment should receive this training which should be provided at reasonably frequent intervals.

Other relevant evidence would be disciplinary records showing that prompt and effective action had been taken against any employee found to have been using a mobile phone whilst driving.

As the technical capabilities of mobile phones increases it is inevitable that the public make greater use of the facilities that are offered. The sight of a driver here in Ireland using a phone whilst driving is commonplace and, of course, a driver on the phone does not necessarily have an accident.  The problem is that, when an accident does occur, it tends to be serious.

For advice on any transport law issues, contact Jared Dunbar on 01829 773 105

Contents believed to be correct at time of writing and article written on 01.07.14

 

 
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Historial drivers hours offences

Posted by admin on Feb 26, 2015 in Latest News

Proposal to make historical drivers’ hours offences

subject to Fixed Penalty Notices

 

The Department for Transport (DfT) has recently opened a consultation on proposed changes to the Road Traffic Offenders Act.  According to the DfT, these changes would allow roadside enforcement officers to take effective enforcement action against drivers who commit historical drivers’ hours and HGV levy offences.

Historical Driver’s Hours

What this means is the offences committed up to 28 days prior to an enforcement check could be dealt with by way of fixed penalty.  Currently they can only be dealt with by way of court proceedings as Fixed Penalty Notices can only be issued to offences which have been committed ‘on that occasion’.

The changes should bring the UK into line with many other Member States in the European Union.

One issue this raises, is what happens if the driver has already been issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice for that offence previously?  Well, according to the proposals, a penalty would be imposed unless an offender can produce evidence of being penalised already or being subject to court proceedings.

If the proposals are implemented, drivers and operators will need to keep careful records of all prosecutions and fixed penalty notices issued and paid.  In may be the case that drivers have to carry copies of the following documents in their cab:

  1. Details of all convictions for offences committed in the last 28 days,
  2. Copies of all fixed penalty notices received in the last 28 days,
  3. Letters confirming that matters have been prosecuted and the driver found not guilty (for offences committed in the last 28 days), and
  4. Letters confirming that a prosecution was brought and the matter withdrawn by the prosecution for offences committed in the last 28 days.

HGV Levy Offences

Whilst enforcement officers have the option to pursue non-payment of the HGV Levy for past days in the courts, the DfT takes the view that the sue of Fixed Penalty Notice is a preferable sanction

For advice on any transport law issues, contact Jared Dunbar on 01829 773 105

Contents believed to be correct at time of writing and article written on 04.07.14

 

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