Who was driving? Say no more than 'I don't know'
IN the context of Chris Huhne's admission of perverting the course of justice, anyone in receipt of a Notice of Intended Prosecution should ignore advice about identifying drivers from police or camera partnerships.
Contrary to the impression often given, there is no legal requirement for owners or keepers to know who is driving any particular vehicle (a moment's thought confirms how utterly impractical that would be).
Responsibility to identify drivers is therefore qualified in paragraph 4 S172 of the 988 Road Traffic Act which states: "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 was."
In any case, the 2000 decision of the Privy Council to allow S172 to breach the right of silence available to suspects in respect of every other criminal offence in the statute book (yes, including rape, murder and terrorism) is restricted to "modest" motoring offences punishable by fines of no more than £1,000 (£2,500 on a motorway) and no jail sentence. And, incidentally, the only action the authorities may take is to ask the question, no more.
That a Notice of Intended Prosecution warns recipients that falsely identifying a driver is an offence punishable by fines and imprisonment, while at the same time air-brushing over their legal right to reply that they do not know and cannot reasonably find out, the authorities are arguably themselves attempting to pervert the course of justice by pressurising even innocent drivers to admit guilt rather than risk the charge faced by Mr Huhne.
That they also highlight the penalty for refusing to answer (the only alternative) is not only larger fines and costs but also six penalty points not three (a vital difference for many) confirms their determination to secure as many admissions of guilt with as little resistance as possible.
Why? That the motive – with so many speed cameras (and police overtime) funded directly from profits from Driver Awareness Courses – might be thought to be cash flow is now embarrassingly obvious.