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I have been asked about the identity of the driver of my vehicle - what do I do? Answer 5:

Sometimes when a vehicle has been involved in a road traffic offence the registered keeper is sent a 'Notice of Intended Prosecution' and a requirement to provide details of the driver is included. What do you do though if you do not know who was driving the vehicle at the time?

When an offence is committed by a person driving the vehicle the police will usually contact the DVLA to obtain details of the registered keeper. The vehicle is most usually identified by information from a picture taken by a speed camera or the like. This is why the police then write to the registered keeper.

There is by law an obligation on the registered keeper to give details as to who was driving the vehicle at the relevant time. However, the form usually just asks if you (the registered keeper) were the driver or, if not, asks you to state who was driving. But sometimes it is not easy to establish who has been driving - in which case what should you do (as failure to provide such information is a criminal offence under Section 172 of Road Traffic Act 1988 and may put six penalty points on your license if convicted)?

First, it will be important to find out as much as you can about who might have been driving the vehicle at the time. This may involve looking at your diary or phone, checking emails, contacting others and trying to trace back where you were at the time of the alleged offence(s). It is worth keep a note of all the enquires you make at this stage as evidence of your efforts. This is because there is a defence under Section 172 which provides that:

"A person shall not be guilty of an offence [failing to identify the driver] if he shows that he did not know and could not with reasonable diligence have ascertained who the driver of the vehicle was".

This result is that if you write back to inform the police that you do not know who the driver of the vehicle is the police are likely to summons you to court (in part because the process is automated). It will then be up to you to show some evidence to the Magistrates that you have acted with 'reasonable diligence' to find out who the driver was in order to avoid a conviction for a S.172 Offence.

It can therefore be helpful when you write back to the police to ask whether they have any photographs or other such evidence which might assist you in identifying the driver. Often the pictures from speed cameras are clear and sometimes the ANPR (Automated Number Plate Recognition) cameras can assist and will help you avoid having to go to court. This request will also add to the evidence of you acting with reasonable diligence.

Therefore in circumstances where you are the registered keeper of a vehicle and you receive a request for information about the driver and you do not know who was driving that you it maybe wise to:

  1. Promptly make as many enquires as you can about who might have been driving the vehicle at the relevant time;

  2. Make a request of the police for more time if you need further time to make enquiries (e.g. if you have been away and have only just received the notice);

  3. Write to the police stating that you do not know who was driving the vehicle and to ask for any camera images or other evidence to be sent to you if your enquires have not borne fruit.

Please note though to be careful about what you put in the letter as the content could be used in evidence at a later date if the matter goes to court. Furthermore, whatever you do, do not give inaccurate or false information! For example, even if the other person agrees, NEVER falsely name another person as the driver in order to avoid the consequences for you as this could lead to a more serious charge for both of you such as perverting the course of justice, which usually results in a prison sentence.

Although on the face of it the legal requirement to provide information as to the identity of a driver looks straightforward, it it is a process which can be complicated and which can have serious consequences. If in doubt please contact us at Tuckers Kent Branch 0300 303 3883 so that we can help you navigate the situation by giving you specific advice tailored to your particular circumstances.

Adrian Rohard is a Partner and Higher Courts' Advocate at Tuckers Kent Branch.



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