Driving without insurance

S143 Road Traffic Act 1988 states that a person must not use a motor vehicle on a road or other public place unless there is a valid insurance policy in place to cover such use.

If you are stopped for driving without insurance you may be offered a fixed penalty for 6 points plus a £300 fine. Alternatively, should the matter proceed to Court the sentence increases to 6-8 penalty points plus an unlimited fine. In some cases you may be disqualified, although this is usually reserved for repeat offenders.

As with most road traffic offences, driving without insurance is a “strict liability” offence. This means that you commit the offence whether or not you intended to. It is extremely important to check the terms of your policy carefully, to ensure that you fully understand the terms and limitations of your cover.

DEFENCES

There are not many defences available to this offence. One is that you were not driving the vehicle in question at the time. The other is that you were insured to drive. The burden is then on you to provide documentary evidence to confirm that you were covered to drive the vehicle in question at the alleged time and for the purpose of that journey.

At times an insurance company may cancel a policy without your knowledge. Our legal team have extensive experience in communicating with insurers in these circumstances. It is possible to persuade the insurers to provide written confirmation that, had an accident occurred and a claim been made, they would have honoured the policy.

SPECIAL REASONS

The majority of No Insurance offences that we see are committed when the defendant believed that they were insured to drive, but it transpires that they were not. Examples can be because cover has lapsed without their knowledge, or that the purpose of their journey was not in fact covered by the policy terms, or that they had relied upon someone else to arrange the cover.

The extent to which you believed you had insurance may amount to a Special Reasons argument. A genuine and honest misapprehension that you were insured to drive may amount to a Special Reason if the belief is based on reasonable grounds. (Rennison v Knowler 1947). Assuming that your policy had auto-renewed, for example, would not suffice, but relying upon another person to arrange the policy, when it was reasonable for you to rely upon them, and being misled into believing cover was in place, could result in Special Reasons being found.

A young adult who is advised by their parent that they are added to the parent’s policy as a named driver is another common argument. It is usually held that it is reasonable for a child to rely upon their parents in such circumstances, and to take it in good faith when they are told they are insured to drive.

If the Magistrates find Special Reasons to exist they will not impose penalty points or a disqualification (they have the discretion to reduce the ban period, but usually either impose the full period or not at all).

Our motoring defence lawyers have an excellent track record of persuading the Crown Prosecution Service to withdraw a case entirely, if it can be argued that it is not in the public interest to continue with the prosecution.

CAUSING OR PERMITTING ANOTHER TO DRIVE WITHOUT INSURANCE:

An offence is committed if a person causes or permits another to use a motor vehicle on a road without a valid insurance policy covering that use (S143(b) Road Traffic Act 1988).

This offence carries the same penalty as using the vehicle (see above).

In order for you to be convicted of this offence it has to be shown that you allowed another person to use the vehicle, and that they were not covered by insurance.

DEFENCES:

There are 3 defences to the offence of permitting use of a vehicle without insurance. The first is that the person driving the vehicle was insured to do so for the purpose of the journey in question. As per the main offence of driving without insurance, this is easy to resolve by producing the valid insurance policy.

The second defence is that you did not give permission for the driver to use the vehicle in question.

The third defence, which our legal team have successfully argued on many occasions, is that the defendant made it a pre-condition of use that the driver had their own policy in place which covered the use of the vehicle before they drove it. You would not, in that scenario, be permitting the use of the vehicle in question without insurance.

DRIVING IN THE COURSE OF EMPLOYMENT

S143 Road Traffic Act 1988 provides a statutory defence and states that a person shall not be convicted if he proves:

  • ( A ) That the vehicle did not belong to him and was not in his possession under a loan agreement or contract hire;
  • ( B ) That he was using the vehicle in the course of his employment; and
  • ( C ) That he did not know, nor have any reason to believe, that there was no insurance policy in place to cover the use.

This means that you may well have a defence available to you, depending upon the terms of your employment and what your employer had told you.

  • We are specialist motoring defence solicitors, based in Plymouth in the South West. We provide expert legal advice and representation to clients both across Devon and Cornwall and nationally. Contact a member of our motoring legal team for an initial discussion about any road traffic matter.**