The difference between a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP and a Single Justice Procedure Notice (SJPN)
If you are stopped at the roadside, you will not receive an NIP and s.172 request for driver information within 14 days of the alleged offence. If you are stopped at the roadside the officer will notify you of his/her intention to prosecute you, the officer will also ask you for your driver details, therefore a further document to confirm driver identification is not required. If you are stopped at the roadside and your speed cannot be dealt with via a fixed penalty offer, then you will receive an SJPN through the post within 6 months from the date of the alleged offence.
If you were not stopped at the roadside then you should receive an NIP within 14 days of the alleged offence as per the requirements of s.1(1)(c) Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988. If you are not the registered keeper of the vehicle then you may receive the NIP some time after the 14 day time period, this is allowed, the police/ticketing office only have to make enquiries within 14 days, they do not need to find you within that time period. However, if there is an unreasonable delay in finding you then you may have a defence as to non compliance with s.1(1)(c) as above.
Please remember that if you are nominating somebody else then the nominee will receive their own NIP (addressed to them) in the post after you have nominated them. This will need to be filled in by the driver. Please refer to previous blog/booklets with regards to not knowing the driver of the vehicle.
Upon completing the s.172 and presumably identifying yourself as the driver, you have NOT admitted/agreed to the alleged offence. You have simply confirmed that you were driving at the time and date detailed within the NIP, you have not agreed to the alleged speed or the alleged circumstances of the offence such as driving without due care and attention. If you know who was driving you cannot avoid a conviction by a failure to complete the s.172 notice, in this instance you would be charged with an additional offence of failing to identify the driver (6 penalty points).
Once you have returned the NIP you will then receive a conditional offer of a fixed penalty (if you fall within a certain range of speed), if you want to accept the offer then you must pay the appropriate fine or book the recommended driver awareness course. If you dispute the alleged offence then you should not accept the conditional offer. By accepting a conditional offer, you are effectively pleading guilty to the offence. If you have 9 + penalty points on your licence you cannot accept a fixed penalty, you will have been sent the offer in error.
If you have rejected the conditional offer you will then receive the SJPN (you may still receive a summons or postal requisition however these are becoming less common). You must receive the SJPN within 6 months from the date of the alleged offence otherwise the offence will become ‘time barred’ (cannot be pursued any further). If you are reaching the 6 months time limit we would recommend that you do not contact the police to ask them where your case is up to as this may prompt action which otherwise would not have occurred.
We are able to represent clients at this early stage (prior to the issuing of the SJPN), the benefit in obtaining legal representation at this stage is that we can begin to liaise with the police regarding any evidence it has against you. We are often able to obtain a copy of some evidence prior to the issuing of the SJPN, this allows us to find inaccuracies with the police records, if we can identify errors with the police it is more likely that the police would refrain from referring your case through to the magistrates court. If your case reaches the SJPN stage then we can no longer liaise with the police, instead we must liaise with the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) who are much more reluctant to discontinue cases.
Upon receipt of the NIP our services are ideal but are not necessary.
If you have gone through the above process or were stopped at the roadside some time ago and have now received an SJPN, our advice is somewhat necessary if you wish to safeguard your position. If you want to plead guilty then you can opt for guilty via post to save you having to attend a court hearing. We would not recommend that you enter a guilty plea prior to reviewing all of the evidence against you, however we understand that the court process is not for everybody. Upon receipt of an SJPN we like to advise our clients to enter a plea of not guilty, so long as they have some doubt over the alleged offence. If you want to enter a not guilty plea and want to have the best chance of success then you should instruct solicitors at this stage. Once a not guilty plea has been entered the court will automatically list your case for a trial hearing, upon receipt of a trial date you are then able to liaise with the CPS to obtain all of the evidence being held against you. If your case appears strong then you should attend a trial hearing. Although allowed, we would not recommend that you represent yourself at court simply due to a lack of legal expertise and knowledge.
If you would like any further advice regarding the above paperwork or believe that our support is needed throughout legal proceedings then please do not hesitate to contact us.