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All drivers are required to have at least third party insurance in place before they can drive a vehicle.

Insurance cover is not always straightforward and many people who are prosecuted for driving without insurance genuinely believed that they were covered by a policy of insurance at the time that they drove. Alas that is no defence to a charge of this nature.

As unfair as it may seem it is no defence to say that you fully believed that you had insurance but your direct debit to your insurance company lapsed without your knowledge.

This is a far reaching offence. In terms of section 143 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 simply ‘using’ a motor vehicle without a valid police of insurance is punishable and ‘using’ encompasses the parking of your motor vehicle in any public place.

One of the only defences available to a charge of this nature is available to an employee who drives a works vehicle whilst oblivious to the fact that the vehicle has not been insured by his or her employer.

In order for this defence to be made out the accused must prove on the balance of probabilities (in other words more likely than not) that the vehicle did not belong to him and was not in his possession under a contact of hire or a loan and that he was using the vehicle in the course of his employment and that he did not know or have reason to believe that there was no insurance in place for that vehicle.

The penalties for driving without insurance are severe. Those convicted of an offence of this nature can expect six to eight penalty points and a substantial fine. In some cases automatic disqualification can be imposed by the court.

A phenomenon that has recently increased in frequency is the prosecution of individuals for causing or permitting someone else to drive their car without insurance. If you are convicted of this you will face the same penalties as if you had driven without insurance.

Even though there is usually no defence available to a charge of this nature it is possible that the court may decide that ‘special reasons’ may apply which may prevent the imposition of penalty points even though the accused person is technically guilty. Such a situation may arise where a person has driven in the genuine but mistaken belief that insurance was in place only to later find that, due to circumstances beyond their control, it was not in place or had been wrongly cancelled by the insurers. One example of special reasons may be where a young driver has accepted the inaccurate assertion of their parent that a family car is fully and properly insured.

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