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Archive for category: Wheldon news

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What are driving endorsements?

The majority of road traffic offences carry obligatory endorsement. Since the abolition of paper counterpart licences in June 2015, any endorsement will be shown on your electronic driving record which is held at the DVLA at Swansea.

What is a driving endorsement?

An endorsement is simply an entry on your driving record. It shows:

  • The type of offence that you have been convicted of
  • The date of the offence
  • The date of conviction
  • The sentence ie. fixed penalty, fine, points, disqualification or, if the offence is a more serious one, some other penalty such as a community order or imprisonment

How long do endorsements stay on your driving licence?

Most endorsements remain current for a period of 3 years from the date of conviction and will physically remain on your driving record for a period of 4 years.  For insurance purposes, the period is 5 years.

There are, however, some exceptions. Endorsements for most drink driving or drug driving offences remain current for a period of 10 years.  This is because if you commit a second offence of this nature within a 10 year period, instead of the normal obligatory minimum disqualification of 1 year for this type of offence, the period of disqualification will be for a minimum of 3 years.  

Special considerations arise in relation to offences such as causing death by careless driving, dangerous driving and causing death by dangerous driving particularly if you happen to be unlicensed or uninsured at the time.

Whilst an endorsement remains on your licence, if you commit a further offence which is dealt with by a court, then the court will be entitled to know about the previous matter and that may affect the way with which the court deals with you for the fresh offence.

Speed Camera

What is a “special reason”?

In some cases, the courts have recognised that it would be disproportionate to disqualify drivers for offences that carry obligatory disqualification and/or endorse their licences for offences that carry obligatory endorsement even though they do not have a defence in law available to them.  

Examples of this would be if you had been accused of drink driving and unknown to you, somebody else had spiked your drink.

Similarly, if you drive a car because you have been told by perhaps the owner that you are covered for insurance purposes and it is reasonable for you to believe that, this could be a special reason for not disqualifying and/or endorsing.  

If a car had been driven only a very short distance in circumstances where it was unlikely to come into contact with other members of the public or if the driver is dealing with a genuine emergency, then again that could give rise to a ‘special reason’. The courts apply this concept very restrictively and if you think that you might fall into this category, you should seek legal advice and representation.  

The general principle is that a ‘special reason’ is special to the facts of the particular case ie. special to the facts which constitute the offence.  It must be a mitigating or extenuating circumstance, not amounting in law to a defence to the charge, yet directly connected with the commission of the offence and be one which the court ought properly to take into account when imposing punishment.  It cannot be something that is peculiar to the offender.

How does the penalty points system work?

If you accumulate 12 or more penalty points in any 3 year period running from date of offence to date of offence, you must be disqualified from driving for a minimum period of 6 months unless you can establish that this would cause either you or the people around you such as your family, employer or employees ‘exceptional hardship’.

If exceptional hardship is proven, then this gives the court the power to do something which it could not otherwise do, namely either reduce the otherwise obligatory 6 months disqualification for a ‘totting up’ disqualification or, in an appropriate case, dispense with it altogether.  If you are in this situation, you should seek expert legal advice as these cases are notoriously difficult to oversee

Penalty points for new drivers

Special provisions apply to drivers who commit endorsable traffic offences that carry penalty points within two years of the date that they have passed their test.  

If you commit offences that accrue a total of 6 points or more during this time, the DVLA will revoke your full driving licence and you will have to retake both your theory and practical driving tests.  If you have been unfortunate enough to get penalty points during the time that you have a provisional licence, these will be carried over and will remain on your full licence once you have passed your test.

Do you need legal advice or representation?

If you have committed a driving offence and require legal representation, contact us on 01442 242999 or email us at enquiry@wheldonlaw.co.uk.

Our specialist team of road traffic solicitors have years of experience in every aspect of road traffic law.  We will be happy to advise and assist you and provide representation in court if necessary.

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What is laughing gas and is it illegal?

Nitrous oxide – more commonly known as ‘laughing gas’ – is back in the news following a Court of Appeal ruling that the substance is controlled by the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016. The Act makes it an offence to possess psychoactive substances with intent to supply and in limited cases, simple possession is also classified as an offence.

The appeals came about following some cases where judges ruled that laughing gas is exempt from control under the Act.

The issue on appeal was whether nitrous oxide was a ‘medicinal product’, as if it were, the offence would not have been committed.

In four cases before the Court of Appeal, two appellants were convicted after trial and the other two had pleaded guilty.

The court ruled:

‘We are satisfied that in the circumstances of these cases the nitrous oxide in question could not be categorised as a medicinal product and therefore was not an exempted substance. In our judgment, the matter is clear on existing authority.’

 

Two carbon oxide gas cylinders isolated on white.

Is the matter of nitrous oxide settled?

The key words of note in the court judgment are ‘…in the circumstances of these cases.

To answer the question, we need to understand a little more as to the purpose of the 2016 Act. The Act applies to substances by reference to their effects, rather than listing individual chemical composition. It is drafted to exclude from criminal sanction their supply for purposes other than recreational use.

In the first instance, it may be assumed that because nitrous oxide is undoubtedly used for medical purposes, it would fall squarely within the medicinal products exemption in the Act.

Importantly however, an ingredient of the offence which must be proved by the prosecution is that the defendant in question intended to supply the substance for consumption for its psychoactive effects.

We therefore have a situation where liability under the 2016 Act depends not solely on the chemical composition of the product, but on the intent of the person in possession.

In one of the appeals, the court held:

‘…the purpose for which it was intended to supply the canisters was purely recreational with nothing whatsoever to do with health. This last feature coupled with the fact that the gas was intended to be used in circumstances which were not beneficial to health, indeed import some risk to health, was sufficient to take it outside the definition of medicinal product whatever label may have been on the boxes in which the canisters were originally packed.’

The case-by-case approach entails the possibility that different products with precisely the same chemical composition may fall within or outside the definition of medicinal product depending on the circumstances of the individual case.

These cases illustrate well the complexities of the criminal law, differences of scientific opinion and the fact that often it takes some time for an appeal court to clarify the law.

In relation to nitrous oxide, it may be that further appeals will follow, particularly if scientific opinion shifts over time.

Seeking legal advice?

For any advice about drug offences contact Wheldon Law on 01442 242999 or at enquiries@wheldonlaw.co.uk