It is a criminal offence for a person to “use” a motor vehicle on a road or “cause” or “permit” any other person to use it on a road while uninsured.
These offences can only be dealt with in the Magistrates’ Court and are typically punishable with a fine and the imposition of between 6 and 8 penalty points on your licence or a disqualification from driving. Despite the fact that these are “summary only” offences that can only be dealt with in the Magistrates’ Court, they are treated seriously; for example, the sentencing guidelines suggest that, where a vehicle is being driven by someone and there is no evidence that they have held insurance, anything from 7 points to a two month disqualification should be imposed. While the guidelines suggest that, where there is evidence of sustained uninsured use and/or involvement in an accident, the Court should impose a disqualification of between 6-12 months.
Given that disqualifications from driving often affect people’s livelihoods, it is vital that you take legal advice if you are charged with an insurance-related offence before entering any pleas at the Magistrates Court.
Aggravating factors (factors that increase the seriousness of an offence) for offences of using/causing/permitting a vehicle to be driven without insurance include:
- That the offender has never passed a driving test;
- The giving of false details;
- Driving vehicles that carry a higher risk to other persons (e.g. goods vehicles or public service vehicles);
- Where the vehicle was being driven for hire or reward;
On the other hand, insurance-related offences are likely to be considered less serious if:
- There was a genuine misunderstanding about the insurance cover;
- Where the responsibility for insurance rested with another person;
- Where there was a recent failure to renew insurance/update it on change of vehicle;
- Where the vehicle was not being driven
If you are charged with driving without insurance, the burden of proof will be on you to produce a certificate of insurance or policy to show that you were insured.
Generally speaking, and presumably to protect the public, the law is very strict in this area and the normal rule is that, if you have driven without insurance, or caused or permitted a vehicle to be used on a road while uninsured, you are guilty of an offence, irrespective of whether you knew or not that the vehicle was uninsured!
There is one exception to this is where a special defence is provided for employees using vehicles in the course of their employment where they are unaware that they are not insured. When this defence is raised, the burden is on the employee to prove, on the balance of probabilities, that the vehicle did not belong to him, that it was not in his possession under a contract of hire or loan, that he was using the vehicle in the course of his employment, and that he neither knew nor had reason to believe that he was uninsured at the time.
It is important to note that a person does not “permit” a vehicle to be used uninsured if he allows another person to use it only on the express condition that the other person will first insure it (it is also the duty of the person giving permission to ensure that it is an express prior condition that the driver has a driving licence and is legally entitled to drive the vehicle). The person giving the condition must ensure that any such conditions are passed directly to the proposed driver and are adequately conveyed.
If the person giving permission has an honest and genuine belief that the person he gave permission to was insured to drive, this is insufficient to avoid liability and they would still be guilty of permitting someone to drive while uninsured!. However, such a belief may give rise to special reasons for the Magistrates to decide not to impose penalty points on the licence of the “permitter”, or to impose a lesser number of points than would ordinarily be imposed.
In order to be found guilty of an offence of no insurance, you do not have to be the owner of the vehicle. Therefore, if you have control of a vehicle (but not ownership), you can still be guilty of an offence for permitting another person to use it without insurance.
If you find yourself facing a summons for no insurance and would like to consult a legal expert in road / traffic cases speak to Quentin Hunt through the contact section of this website.