Section 172 – Road Traffic Act
Section 172 (S172) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (RTA) was put in place with the aim of forcing the registered keeper or the day to day keeper/user of the vehicle to provide information as to the identification of the driver of the vehicle at a specific time when an offence occurred.
With more and more offences being detected remotely via cameras etc. it has become an important part of the prosecution process to be able to prosecute the right person for a particular offence.
However, Section 172 puts to responsibility onto the registered keeper to provide the necessary information, or else to be prosecuted either for the offence themselves, or to face prosecution for failing to provide the driver’s identity.
Providing the identity of the driver is not an admission of guilt to the offence, it is just an acknowledgement of who was driving the vehicle for the period of the motoring offence.
Is S172 Self Incrimination?
There have been a great number of section 172 cases taken to the European court, but none have been successful and S.172 has been declared in law to be proportional in order to maintain road safety….. so this is not a defence.
Legitimate Section 172 Defences
- The “Reasonable Diligence Defence”
- The “Not Reasonably Practicable Defence”
If you can demonstrate that you have taken all the steps you reasonably can to identify the driver, but it wasn’t possible then you can’t be prosecuted for failing to nominate the driver.
It’s increasingly common for courts to ask you to demonstrate “exceptional diligence” but you should not accept this. There is no definition of what constitutes “Reasonable Diligence”, which amount to doing your best.
The burden of proof is on you (because this is a statutory offence) to prove “on the balance of probabilities” that you did indeed exercise reasonable diligence.
Not Reasonably Practicable
This defence is mostly used in circumstances when you either didn’t receive the request for driver information (and so could not respond within 28 days) or in instances where the request was received some time after the offence and you can no longer recall who was driving at the time of the offence.
This defence can be most useful in instances when it was a relatively short, local journey and there are several drivers with insurance on the vehicle.
What If You Did Give The Information But It Wasn’t Received?
In law, there is not statutory burden upon you to prove that you posted the information.
In order to comply with a request to supply driver information, you are required to complete the form, address the envelope correctly, add sufficient postage stamps and post in a post box.
If the court accept that you took those steps then you shouldn’t be found guilty as you have done everything required in law.
In instances such as these, it falls to the prosecution to prove to the court that you had the information that they required, but failed to provide it.
Because there are so many variables to cases such as these it’s advisable to talk to a specialist motoring law solicitor who will be able to provide you with the best options to successfully defend your specific case.