Under s 87(1) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 it is an offence to drive a vehicle without a license appropriate to a vehicle of that class or to drive a vehicle on a provisional license unless accompanied by an appropriate person and displaying "L" Plates on your vehicle.
For holders of a provisional license an ‘appropriate person’ is a full license holder who is over the age of 21 and has held a full driving license for at least three years.
If a driver is convicted of driving without a license then they will almost inevitably incur between three and six penalty points and can be fined up to £1000. The courts also have the power, exercised on a discretionary basis, to disqualify such a driver from holding or obtaining a license for a period of time.
Driving a vehicle without an appropriate license will almost inevitably render any insurance policy held for that vehicle invalid and those charged with driving with driving without a license will almost inevitably face charges of driving without insurance (see separate subject heading). The insurance policy in question should however be closely scrutinised so as to ascertain whether it allows the policy holder to grant permission to drive to a person"Who holds or has held a driving license". If such a clause exists then it will not necessarily follow that a person convicted of driving without a license will be convicted of using a car without a valid insurance policy.
Driving without Insurance
Under s143 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 it is an offence to use (or permit to be used) a motor vehicle on a road or other public place when there is not in force in relation to the use of the vehicle such a policy of insurance in respect of third party risks as complies with the Road Traffic Act.
If you are found guilty of an offence under this section then you will face a penalty of between six to eight penalty points and a fine of up to £5000. Courts in Scotland also possess the power, yet again exercised on a discretionary basis, to disqualify drivers from holding or obtaining or license.
It is important to note that the concept of ‘use’ is an extremely wide one and that it is not necessary for an accused person to actually drive a car for them to be deemed as ‘using it’. A car could be stationary in a public place or parked on a public road and if there is no valid policy of insurance then an offence is committed.
In addition it should be noted that this offence is a strict liability offence which means that, regardless of what a driver believed the situation to be, if they are unable to prove that a valid policy of insurance was in place they will be guilty of an offence.
There is however a defence available to this charge if an employee drives in the course of their employment having been led to believe by his/her employer (and owner of the vehicle in question) that insurance was in place. This is a statutory defence which means that it is for the accused person to prove that it applies on the balance of probabilities.
Even where no defence is available it is also possible for the court to decide that ‘Special Reasons’ (See separate subject heading) apply and to refrain from the imposition of penalty points for this offence even though an accused person is technically guilty. Such a situation may arise where a person has driven in the mistaken belief that insurance was in place only to find that, due to circumstances beyond their control, it has not been put in place or has been unexpectedly cancelled.
It is also worthy of note that an essential component of this offence is that the vehicle be found in a ‘public place’ or ‘road’ and that there is an abundance of case law on what amounts to a ‘public place’ or ‘a road’. It is therefore very much in an accused person’s interests to seek legal advice at an early stage.
Often, an individual who has never before been prosecuted under section 143 will be offered an alternative to prosecution in the form of a fixed penalty of £200 and six penalty points. If such an individual does not qualify for a ‘special reasons’ argument then strong consideration should be given to accepting such a penalty. Failure to do so could result in a substantially greater fine being imposed.
Causing or permitting use of vehicle without insurance
If you cause or permit someone to use your vehicle without insurance you will be liable to prosecution and penalisation in the same way as if you had driven the vehicle yourself.
This situation can easily arise where one lends a vehicle to a friend or family member only to later discover that that person was not insured.
The onus is on you as the owner of the vehicle to take all reasonable steps to ensure that insurance is in place when you let another person drive your vehicle.
Driving without a valid MOT
Section 47 (1) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 states that it is an offence for anyone to drive, or allow or cause to be driven, a vehicle which requires, but does not have, a valid Ministry of Transport test certificate.
An offence under this section does not bring with it the imposition of penalty points or the risk of disqualification but does carry with it the risk of a substantial financial penalty.
Section 47(2) provides that the vehicles to which this rule applies are those registered over three years ago, or:
"Those which, having a date of manufacture not less than three years before that time, have been used on roads (whether in Great Britain or elsewhere) before being registered"
Moreover, certain classes of vehicle require to be tested after one year. These are:
(a) A motor vehicle used for the carriage of passengers and with more than eight seats, excluding the drivers’ seat, or
(b) A taxi
(c) An ambulance
There are two main statutory defences to a charge under this section. These require to be established by an accused person on the balance of probabilities and are as follows:
(a) That you were taking the vehicle to an MOT testing station for the purposes of having a test carried out at the time at which you were stopped. Essential to the proof of this defence is establishing that ‘a previous arrangement’ existed with the testing station with regards to the testing of your vehicle on that day and a defence witness from the testing station should ideally be brought along to confirm this.
(b) That the vehicle has only been brought into the United Kingdom temporarily and has an appropriate registration mark for the company from which it came.