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Often the receipt of this document will be your first indication that you are being investigated for a road traffic offence.

In cases where you have not actually been stopped by the police and cautioned and charged (because, for example, the offence alleged has been captured by a static speed camera) a prerequisite to the taking of any further action is the service on you by the police of a ‘Notice of Intended Prosecution’ (Hereinafter referred to as NIPs).

The requirements which such a notice must meet are set out in the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988. The notice must be signed on behalf of the Chief Constable, must be dated and must contain sufficient information to allow the recipient to identify the offence alleged.

The NIP procedure only applies to certain offences. Typically these are speeding, failure to comply with traffic signals, etc.

So what then do the authorities require to do to comply with the procedure set out by statute?

The law first of all requires that any such notice must be issued and dispatched in such a manner that it will reach the registered keeper within 14 days of the offence.

The method of delivery is at the discretion of the police who only have to show that they have followed the correct procedure.

The police do not require to prove that the NIP reached the intended recipient within fourteen days. They only have to prove that in the normal course of events it would have arrived within fourteen days.

On the other hand if you receive a NIP and the date of issue is more than fourteen days after the offence then it is invalid.

Be wary if you are driving a car which is subject to a lease agreement. In such cases you will not strictly speaking be the ‘registered keeper’. The lease company is and it is likely that the NIP will go there first. Hence, you might receive a NIP more than two weeks after the date of the offence and think that you are free of any further charges on technical grounds.

Unfortunately it does not work that way and providing the NIP was issued to the lease company within the fourteen day period you have no comeback.

There has in the past been a degree of ambiguity over whether an unsigned NIP would be of any worth in court where it is later used to try and substantiate the case against the accused. It is our opinion that any failure to sign the form would arguably amount to a failure to provide the appropriate information and leave an accused person open to a charge under section 172 Road Traffic Act 1988.

We are often asked about whether errors pertaining to details contained within a NIP would be enough to justify a recipient in not responding or will invalidate any later proceedings.

The position is that not all errors will make the NIP invalid. Providing the allegation can be clearly identified by any reasonable person then a spelling mistake in the name of a street or a missing digit from a car registration is insufficient to invalidate a NIP. On the other hand if the error is such that the incident giving rise to the allegation cannot be properly identified then the recipient should return the NIP asking for clarification.

It is possible for a recipient to request access to any photographic evidence relevant to the charge from the police and this is normally permitted.

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