Driving without insurance: Direct Debit was cancelled without my knowledge, is this a special reasons defence?FAQ
I was caught driving without insurance. I was unaware at the time that my bank had cancelled my direct debit because there was not enough money in my account. The insurers did not contact me, nor did the bank. If I had known that the Policy was cancelled, I would never have driven. I have been told that I can present a special reasons defence in Court. Is this true?
Special reasons is not a defence. It is a facility that the Court can use to avoid imposing an endorsement on your driving licence. In order to be successful, the Defendant needs to establish mitigating or extenuating circumstances which whilst not amounting to a defence, are such that when taken into consideration, justify not imposing a punishment. The reason must relate to the Defendant not to the allegation. Forgetting to cover a direct debit would not be regarded as an extenuating circumstance, given that this is within your control and the onus is upon you as a driver to be certain that your insurance is effective before you use your vehicle.
Your best option is to plead mitigation and try to limit the punishment to 6 penalty points.
I was caught speeding but it was a genuine emergency. Can I plead guilty but argue a special reasons defence? I received a distress call that a relative was seriously ill.
Firstly, it should be noted that Special Reasons is not a defence. It follows a guilty finding and is used to convince the Court not to impose a punishment because, whilst the offence has been committed, the circumstances were such that it would be wrong to impose a punishment.
In order for your Special Reasons argument to succeed, you will have to show that there was no alternative but to drive in the manner that you did and that your emergency must be “real, not nebulous, nor manufactured”. If it is anticipated, it is not an emergency and further you will have to show that the issue could not have been resolved by other means, for example, calling for an ambulance etc.
In some circumstances, a genuine emergency can amount to a defence of “duress of necessity/circumstances” which would result in acquittal.
I was stopped by the Police for speeding. I explained that I desperately needed the toilet and I was simply trying to make progress so I could reach the services. The Police said my “excuse” was not good enough and it would be up to the Court to decide the appropriate punishment. Will the Court have sympathy in my case?
Known as the “Alex Ferguson” defence, this is an explanation that some Courts will accept as “special reasons”. Whilst the offence is committed, if special reasons are established, no punishment will be imposed. In order to be successful on this argument, you have to show that it was an emergency and the action you took in all the circumstances was reasonable. Consequently, rushing to a service station 1 mile away may be acceptable. Speeding at 110 mph to get home 20 miles away, will not be. Each case depends entirely on its own merits and to some degree, whether the Court believe your explanation. It is a technical argument which would normally need specialist advice.