S.172 Road Traffic Act 1988 – Failing to Identify the Driver
S.172 Road Traffic Act 1988, creates a duty to give information as to the identity of a driver of a vehicle in criminal circumstances.
In brief, Section 172 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 requires a registered keeper of a vehicle to provide the drivers details at any particular time.
Duty to give information as to identity of driver etc. in certain circumstances.
This section applies—.
(a) to any offence under the preceding provisions of this Act except—
(i) an offence under Part V, or
(ii) an offence under section 13, 16, 51(2), 61(4), 67(9), 68(4), 96 or 120, and to an offence under section 178 of this Act,
(b) to any offence under sections 25, 26 or 27 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988,
(c) to any offence against any other enactment relating to the use of vehicles on roads, F2. . . and
(d) to manslaughter, or in Scotland culpable homicide, by the driver of a motor vehicle.
The underlying offence (such as speeding) may only carry 3 points, however, failing to identify the driver carries 6 penalty points and a fine of up to £1,000 under Schedule 2 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988.
The Legal Requirement of the Section of this Act is to compel individuals to provide the identity of the driver of a vehicle at the time of an alleged road traffic offence.
This Section is a useful tool for the Police to demand the information of the relevant driver details from the registered keeper of the vehicle. If of course, the person who owns/registers the car is in a position to do so.
For example, if a vehicle is caught exceeding the speed limit by a speed camera at 1.30pm on 23.02.18 – the registered keeper of the vehicle will be requested under s.172 to provide the drivers details of the driver of the vehicle at the time of the alleged offence. This is done via a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP/s172 Notice).
A notice of intended prosecution must be served within 14 days after the alleged offence.
If you receive a s/172 notice, you will have 28 days to return the completed s.172 notice to the police. It is essential within this time you contact Driving Solicitors to discuss your options.
Important – before you stop to think that you will have the opportunity to claim that providing this information is against your Human Rights, like most people, this defence would not be sufficient as European Courts have agreed that the obligation under Section 172 of the Road Traffic Act is proportionate to the need to maintain road safety, therefore providing the correct and most up-to-date information is crucial, otherwise you may run the risk getting yourself into greater trouble if there is any suggestion that you have actively misled the Police, deriving from Section 29 Road Safety Act 2006.
Breach of duty to give information as to identity of driver etc. In Part 1 of Schedule 2 to the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 (c. 53) (prosecution and punishment of offences: offences under the Traffic Acts), in the entry relating to section 172 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (c. 52) (duty to give information as to identity of driver etc. in certain circumstances), in column (7) (penalty points), for “3” substitute “ 6 ”.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has rejected the combined appeals, for example those of Gerard O’Halloran and Idris Francis against the United Kingdom by a majority of 15 to 2. After the appeal was dismissed, Mr. Francis, now faces a legal bill of around £8,000, which arguably is far greater than just adhering to the fine itself and providing the information that is asked of you. Therefore, the risk is great to appeal the decision under a defence, although it is not impossible to succeed with such an application.
This verdict now enables the British Government and the Police to force motorists to complete the S172 of the Road Traffic Act which could result in the motorist contributing towards their own conviction of the alleged offence. A completed s.172 notice is almost always the only evidence of the driver’s identity in speed camera cases.
There are two Statutory Defences under Section 172.
The first is a Reasonable Diligence under S172(4) – A person shall not be guilty of an offence by virtue of paragraph (a) of subsection (2) above if he shows that he did not know and could not with reasonable diligence have ascertained who the driver of the vehicle was. Because this is a statutory defence, the burden will be on you to show, on the balance of probabilities (i.e. more likely than not) that you exercised reasonable diligence.
It follows that the Defendant cannot respond to a notice he is unaware of, even when the notice has been properly served. Although this in some way contradicts the decision in Atkinson v DPP  EWHC 3363(Admin).
The Second is under S172(7)(b) that it is not reasonably practicable to identify the driver;
A requirement under subsection (2) may be made by written notice served by post; and where it is so made—
(a) it shall have effect as a requirement to give the information within the period of 28 days beginning with the day on which the notice is served, and
(b) the person on whom the notice is served shall not be guilty of an offence under this section if he shows either that he gave the information as soon as reasonably practicable after the end of that period or that it has not been reasonably practicable for him to give it.
Section 172 throws up some interesting scenarios, hopefully in the future there will be a concrete and successful defence so that road users will be more vigilant when driving and they can predict their outcome for the offence and not end up with some hefty fine or significant legal costs.
If concerned about your rights and obligations under s172 of the Road Traffic Act, then it is pivotal to keep Notices to prove when they were received and by whom.
Please ensure that at your earliest opportunity the appropriate information is given in any circumstances or you are properly defended if charged.
Please do contact Driving Solicitors if you require any motoring law advice.
– Sophie C Hill