The Magistrate's Blog (2005-2012)

This blog has migrated to www.magistratesblog.blogspot.co.uk This blog is anonymous, and Bystander's views are his and his alone. Where his views differ from the letter of the law, he will enforce the letter of the law because that is what he has sworn to do. If you think that you can identify a particular case from one of the posts you are wrong. Enough facts are changed to preserve the truth of the tale but to disguise its exact source.

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Location: Near London, United Kingdom

The blog is written by a retired JP, with over 30 years' experience on the Bench.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Car Insurance

Every court has to deal with uninsured drivers. It is probably the commonest single offence that we see, and it is not always simple to deal with. Young people are often fascinated by cars and will do almost anything to get their hands on one. Unfortunately premiums for even the most basic cover can easily amount to £2000 per year for a new young driver, and for those who cannot persuade their parents to help it may not be possible to raise the money. So they take a chance and drive, and end up in front of a bench of magistrates. There are degrees of seriousness - here are a few everyday scenarios:-

A: Jason is 21. He has a provisional licence and has never taken a test. He is stopped while driving his mate's G-registered Nova. He appears on summons for no insurance, no licence, and no MOT certificate. A separate summons will be issued over the car's lack of a tax disc. The police have seized the car. He lives with his mother and gets £43 per week benefits. He pleads guilty.

B: Mohammed is 22 and holds an Afghan driving licence, which he has been using for the eighteen months that he has been in the UK. His asylum claim is in the system. He is stopped while driving what seems to be a communal car owned with friends. They use it to get to the casual farm and labouring jobs that they are doing to supplement their £38 per week benefits. He did not know that insurance was required, and he also did not know that his entitlement to use the Afghan licence has run out and he needs to take a test for a UK licence. He is summonsed for no insurance, not driving in accordance with the terms of a licence, and no MOT. He pleads guilty.

C: Charlene is a 31 year old single mother. She works a couple of shifts in a pub, and receives various benefits to support her children. Her income from all sources is about £170 per week. Her 13 year old Cavalier used to be insured by her boyfriend but he has moved on and the insurance ran out six weeks ago. She can't afford to renew it. She has a full licence with three points for a speed camera offence, and the MOT fortunately has three weeks left to run. She needs the car to run the kids about, to get to work, and for shopping at the cheap Aldi shop that is three miles away. She pleads guilty to driving without insurance.

D: Patrick has a six year old van that he uses to carry his tools around for his work as a builder's odd-job man. He has no insurance, has a similar conviction from eighteen months ago, and another from four years ago. His licence is a full one. He earns about £250 per week and lives with his girlfriend in a rented flat.

E: John was doing a part time driving job for a local off-licence when he was stopped in a routine check. When he went to get the insurance certificate from his employer he discovered that it had expired three months before. He is summonsed for no insurance, and writes in to plead guilty, but comes to court to tell us what has happened. He can't afford a solicitor.

The Guidelines:

Entry point is a discharge or fine. Guideline fine is one week's take-home pay. Must endorse licence with 6-8 points or may disqualify. Disqualification should be considered where there are aggravating factors such as deliberate failure to obtain insurance, a defective vehicle, no test ever passed, no reference to ever having had a policy. Mitigation might include accidental oversight, genuine mistake.

Anyone fancy sentencing that lot? Cases just like them will be before every court in the land next week.

Just to muddy the water for you, a new Fixed Penalty has been introduced for no insurance. It is for £200 plus six penalty points, but for today, none of our offenders have been offered the FPN. Oh yes, and you have just paid your car insurance, that cost you £550.