In a high profile case, ex-England captain David Beckham avoided conviction for a speeding offence yesterday on a technicality. The court ruled that, because the initial letter to the owner of the car informing them of an impending prosecution (known as a Notice of Intended Prosecution or “NIP”) was served late, Beckham could not be convicted.
Beckham was caught by an average speed camera, which clocked him driving at 59mph in a 40mph zone on the A40 in Paddington at around 5.30pm on January 23. He had been driving a Bentley, on loan from the company, whose registered address is Pym’s Lane, Crewe in Cheshire. Therefore, when the former Man United and Real Madrid footballer drove through the speed limit, the police subsequently checked the vehicle and discovered that the registered owner was Bentley Motors Ltd and sent the NIP to them.
Beckham’s own lawyer confirmed that his client accepted driving and accepted speeding. So how did he avoid any punishment?
What does the law say?
The authorities are under an obligation pursuant to Section 1 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988, to have sent out the NIP so that it arrives within 14 days of the offence being committed. It is not for the authorities to prove that the NIP reached the registered keeper but they must show that, in the normal course of events, the NIP would have arrived at the last known address of the registered keeper within the 14 day time limit.
What are the facts of David Beckham’s speeding case?
In Beckham’s case, the court heard from the Met that the notice was one of several thousand NIPs sent by Scotland Yard on February 2, first class. Under Section 1 (1A) of the Road Traffic Offenders Act, the law clearly states that by sending a NIP by registered or recorded delivery post is deemed to be served notwithstanding that the notice was undelivered or was not received. In the case of service by first class post, the requirement is deemed to be complied with unless and until the contrary is proved. This creates what is called a ‘rebuttable presumption of good service’. There is a presumption that letters sent by post will be delivered in the ordinary course of post, which, when sent first class, is the second working day after posting. Therefore in Beckham’s case, the NIP should have arrived with the registered keepers no later than February 6.
However, the court heard evidence from a Bentley employee, who had been opening the post in Bentley’s legal department, twice a day for the last year. Her evidence was that the NIP had arrived on the 7th February, a day outside the statutory time limit.
Judge Barnes rejected the claims by the Metropolitan Police that the notice was actually served on time. Barnes said that whilst the NIP had been sent in time, on the balance of probabilities she was satisfied that it had simply arrived later than it should have. In summing up the Judge remarked that the law allows for the “vagaries” of the postal system to be taken into account and that therefore Beckham could not be convicted.
How Blaser Mills Law can help
Speeding is a serious offence and alone can attract penalty points and a heavy fine, which is linked to your disposable weekly income. In particular, serious cases of speeding can warrant an immediate disqualification from driving of up to 56 days. If you accumulate more than 12 penalty points within 3 years, a “totting up” disqualification of 6 months is normally imposed.
This case has simply highlighted a well-trodden area of law. At Blaser Mills Law, we have successfully argued the same point for a number of individual and commercial clients in the past. Normally the prospects of success are greater where the NIP is directed to commercial premises as record keeping is more accurate and easier to establish in court. However, the central point is that the law does allow for scenarios where letters do not arrive by post as they should.
Our specialist road traffic team successfully defend hundreds of cases every year. If you have received a Notice of Intended Prosecution for speeding, or any other motoring offence, you can speak to one of our team free today on +44 (0) 203 814 2020 or via firstname.lastname@example.org