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Coronavirus: what will happen to my speeding court hearing?
Q:- Will my speeding court case be dropped because of the coronavirus crisis?
A:- No. Cases will not be discontinued. The Crown Prosecution Service stated in their report “Interim CPS Charging Protocol - Covid-19 Crisis Response” that concerning less serious offences such as speeding “It is not proposed that these offences are simply ignored”.
Q:- Could my speeding court hearing be delayed because of coronavirus?
A:- Probably. Each of the Magistrates Courts in England and Wales are making their own arrangements individually to respond to the coronavirus crisis. Many courts are following the policy of delaying hearings for minor offences (such as speeding, drink driving, driving without due care and attention, or using a mobile phone while driving, etc). They are instead dealing with more serious criminal matters. Nevertheless, HM Courts and Tribunal Service stated on the 24th April 2020 “We plan to re-start work on police traffic prosecution cases that can be dealt with remotely”. The possibility of such a technological solution being used means that it is still best to prepare your case at an early stage just in case.
Q:- Given my concerns about COVID-19, will I have to eventually attend court?
A:- Not necessarily. There is at present a very large backlog of speeding and other road traffic cases at the Magistrates Courts and, if a technological solution is not found soon, face to face hearings will probably start again despite the coronavirus not being fully eradicated in the UK. If you are worried about attending court in this situation, Philip Hatvany, our leading solicitor, can attend on your behalf without you being present for offences such as speeding, careless driving, or using a mobile phone while driving etc. He can enter the guilty plea, put forward all the reasons as to why a lenient sentence should be imposed and deal with the case for you without you having to go to court. However, if you have been bailed to attend court for an offence like drink driving then you must attend yourself. Also, if the offence to which you are going to plead guilty will give you a total of 12 penalty points or more and you want to argue Exceptional Hardship to try and save your driving licence then you will have to attend.
Q:- Can my attendance at the Magistrates Court be avoided by writing a letter?
A:- Perhaps. If your speeding allegation (or indeed other minor road traffic matter) reaches the courts then it is likely to go through the Single Justice Procedure. This is a procedure where your matter goes before a single magistrate who will look at your case in your absence and see if he/she can deal with it without the need for a full court hearing.
The process starts with you being sent a document called a Single Justice Procedure Notice. In such cases you will be given the option to reply to this notice stating that you wish to plead guilty but do not want to attend court. It is always a good idea to respond in this way where you are guilty of the offence and there is a possibility that the single magistrate will just impose points, provided this won’t bring your total to 12 penalty points or more. However, there is a danger that the single magistrate may feel that your matter is so serious that it should be put over for a full court hearing for you to attend so the magistrates can consider not bothering with points at all but simply disqualifying you from driving instead. To try to avoid this a good letter should be written to the single magistrate explaining why the imposition of penalty points should suffice. At Speeding Law Solicitors we are very skilled at helping clients write such letters.
Despite the continuing coronavirus crisis, many Magistrates Courts are beginning to now look at the possibility of resuming cases going before the single magistrate as a part of the Single Justice Procedure. This is because it only involves the single magistrate and their legal advisor looking at the cases and therefore social distancing is not such a problem.
Q:- Could the coronavirus crisis mean I am less likely to be disqualified by the court?
A:- Yes. If you are a key worker and need to be able to drive to get to your workplace or to be able to do your job, the magistrates will probably be more reluctant to disqualify you from driving. Also, if you need to deliver food to friends or family who are self-isolating the magistrates will probably be less likely to ban you.
Q:- Could the coronavirus crisis mean it is more likely I am banned from driving by the court?
A:- Yes. If it transpires during your hearing that you were speeding while doing a non-essential journey this could be seen as an aggravating feature and make a driving ban more likely.
Q:- Could I move my speeding case to a Magistrates Court nearer my home?
A:- No. The Magistrates Court that covers the area where your offence took place will be the court that hears your case, and this court will not transfer your matter just to reduce your travel time. So far, even with the advice by the government to reduce travel time where possible during the COVID-19 crisis, we are not aware of a policy review.
Q:- Despite the coronavirus, can I still attend a speed awareness course?
A:- Not at the moment. The National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) suspended driver awareness courses for 12 weeks from the 20th March 2020. Such driver awareness courses were not just for speeding but were also provided for people accused of driving without due care and attention, or going through a red light. That such courses are being suspended is not surprising because they go against social distancing advice because they involve numerous people being present in an enclosed space. The fact that driver awareness courses have been put on hold is likely to result in some drivers who would have been eligible for such a course before the coronavirus crisis having to take penalty points or having their matter referred for a Magistrates Court hearing instead.
Why you should phone Speeding Law Solicitors:-
With the coronavirus pandemic, the legal system is very fluid at the moment. Every Magistrates Court in England and Wales is dealing with their cases slightly differently and their individual policies are always changing. Here at Speeding Law Solicitors, we are in touch with numerous Magistrates Courts every day. Call our road traffic specialist solicitor, Philip Hatvany, on FREEPHONE 08009098110 for FREE initial advice as to the progress of your motoring case and the likely outcome.