Chris Huhne speeding points probe

 

There has been much in the news this last week about Chris Huhne allegedly asking another to falsely admit to being the driver of his car at the time the speeding offence occurred in order to avoid a conviction for speeding in his own right.  

Whilst we can’t and won’t comment upon whether this is true in Chris Huhne’s case  (that is a matter for the police and in due course if appropriate, the courts) this blog is designed to show you just how easy it is to turn the potential risk of points on your licence into the very real risk of a prison sentence by committing the far more serious offence of perverting the course of justice.

If you are convicted of speeding the worst that can happen to you is that you will lose your licence either by virtue of a discretionary disqualification or by becoming a totter under the penalty points system.  Most people are dealt with by penalty points. As an example, if you were driving at 50 mph in a 30 mph limit the guideline penalty would be 3-6 points or a discretionary disqualification of 7 – 28 days. A speeding offence can only be dealt with in the Magistrates’ Court and the maximum sentence is a financial penalty. You cannot go to prison for speeding.

Contrast this with the offence of perverting the course of justice. This offence is committed if you act or embark upon a course of conduct which has a tendency to pervert and is intended to pervert the course of justice.  To put it in the context of this discussion, if you falsely allege another to be driving and/or persuade that other to falsely  accept that they were driving, you are doing an act which is intended to pervert the course of public justice, namely your own rightful conviction for speeding. Not only are you at risk of conviction of this offence but if that other person willingly colludes with you i.e. willingly and falsely stating that they were the driver, they could be guilty of it too. What might seem like a fairly innocent or harmless thing to do can in fact have massive consequences for you and that other person.

The offence of perverting the course of justice is one that can only be dealt with in the Crown Court. The guideline sentence  is custody – prison.  Case law dictates that custodial sentences should be imposed in all but the most exceptional of cases. 

If you have been caught speeding and are worried about the implications of this for you and your licence you should always seek legal advice. If for example you are at risk of totting (exceeding the maximum 12 points) you may be able to advance an exceptional hardship argument that could avoid a disqualification. If for another example you are a new driver and are worried that the penalty points you will receive will cause you to fall foul of the new driver provisions, you could exceptionally ask the court to impose a short discretionary disqualification instead which will avoid the imposition of penalty points and therefore the new drivers provisions.  Both of these examples can be difficult to argue and you should speak to a criminal defence solicitor about whether they could succeed in your case.

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