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Contesting a Fixed Penalty Notice(13 Posts)
Today DH was issued with a fixed penalty notice for driving without a seat belt even though he was wearing a seat belt at the time. He was wearing a seat belt when pulled over, but the PC who pulled him just said that her colleague up the road had seen him driving without one and that he must have just put it on while driving. She said she had no option but to issue the fixed penalty notice based upon what her colleague had said. She would have no discussion of the matter.
My husband then went to the police station to try to complain but they would not allow him to make a complaint, and just told him his only option was to pay the fine or contest and request a court date.
It is a £60 fine with no points.
We later drove the route and there are two cameras along that stretch of road. They belong to the local council. We have put in a request for footage hoping that it will prove his inocence. They didn't have cameras so they have no evidence, although photograpic evidence would be useful as it would show him wearing a seat belt.
We intend to write a letter contesting the fine. Is there anything else we can do? It seems crazy that the only options are pay a fine or go to court. And what ever happened to inocent until proven guilty.
Sorry for the rant. I would really appreciate advice on how to phrase things in our letter. And what are the chances that they would drop it rather than take us to court?
Grrr, the rage, I must calm down. I'm 28wks pregnant and the baby has been mental this evening, think it may be in response to the adrenalin from Mummy's fury!
Thanks for reading my essay! This is my first post so please go easy on me.
Innocent until proven guilty only applies to criminal prosecutions. It is irrelevant for FPNs and non-criminal cases.
In essence an FPN offers you the opportunity to pay a fine rather than be prosecuted. The only way to dispute the FPN is to go to court. If you take that option you may win but you could find that you end up with a bigger fine if you lose. If it comes down to your husband's word against the police officer I'm afraid the court is likely to go with the police unless there are obvious inconsistencies in the officer's evidence.
However unfair it seems, unless you can get that evidence from the council's cameras, you really will be better off just accepting this.
Thank you for taking the time to reply, even if it is not really what I wanted to hear. I know that stress wise just taking the fine would be the easiest route. I think on principal my husband is not going to drop it now anyway. We may not know what the CCTV yeilds until after we contest as we only have 28 days to contest, but it could take the council upto 40 days to get back to us regarding our CCTV request.
Looks like instead of spending the last few weeks of this pregnancy preparing to bring our child home we will be spending it preparing for a court date. I just feel so let down by the police and the whole system. This is our only dealing with the police ever and so far they have lied, and been completely unapproachable and closed ranks.
If you are going to court I would suggest you argue the officer concerned is mistaken rather than lying. You are more likely to be successful that way. If you know where the officer who thinks they saw your DH without his seatbelt was standing at the time, I would take a look at the location and see how clear a view they would have had. See if you can show there is a realistic possibility that the officer was mistaken.
In last Saturday's Daily Telegraph Motoring Section someone had written into Honest John for advice with the same sort of problem. I am sorry I do not have the article to hand went out with recycling but maybe you could look it up on the internet.
The event took place in the winter and the lady in question was wearing a black coat which had a hood and the car had adjustable height seat belts and she obviously had it on lowest setting so seat belt being black blended in with the coat hence it looked like she didn't have the seat belt fastened. I was therefore wondering if you husband had in fact had a dark shirt or jacket on.
Thanks again ladies. You are of course right prh that accusing the police of lying is not going to achieve much. And although in my anger it feels like the whole thing is just one big conspiracy, the officer in question could well have been mistaken. I think the fact that when he was pulled over he was clearly (still) wearing a seat belt yet the officer who pulled him would not even discuss it even though it was only about 100m up the road, coupled with the fact that the only option to contest is a court date makes it feel like the system is very much against us.
We do know where the officer who alledgedly saw him was standing and I'm not sure it would have been the clearest vantage point. There is also a camera mounted on the traffic lights at the spot so we are crossing our fingers it was pointing in the right direction at the time.
My husband was wearing dark clothing (he was on his way home from work and in uniform so there are colleagues that can vouch for what he was wearing 5 mins before the incident). The seat belts in our car don't have variable mounts, but are quite low so may not form a very obvious silhouette from certain angles. Friends have suggested drawing up maps of the road lay out and taking photos of DH in the car wearing his uniform and a seatbelt from differnt angles to show how confussion may have arisen. mowbray thanks for the heads up about that article, I will see what my limited googling skills can come up with.
The other things we have thought of is that DH drives alot for work, so could therefore have character statements from senior work colleagues stating that to drive without a seatbelt is something he would absolutely never entertain as an idea. (He is infact a stickler for road safety law and is often complaining about the frequency of other motorists driving irratically on the phone etc...).
He has also done extensive courses through work, such as defensive driving, trailer towing, off road driving etc... I don't know if these things would be usefull to mention. He has been driving for over 16yrs and never had any offences (even minor accidents or parking fines to my knowledge), I'm not sure if this would also be taken into account in his favour.
It all just seems ridiculous that one should have to go to such lengths to prove ones inocence.
Although we are 100% right in principle to contest this, I am worried that if it comes down to DH's word against the police then the court will just side with the police and we will just end up with a huge fine.
Thanks again for taking time to read and comment/offer advice. It is helping me think through more constructively what we can do.
Similar case in local court recently concerning use of mobile phone, spotted by one PC and vehicle stopped further up road by another PC. (Apparently this is normal police practice). Driver alleged to have been using mobile when he drove past first PC. Driver disputes this. Only evidence is first PCs observation. In court months later she cannot even recall the incident and can only refer to her very brief notes. No evidence from phone records produced. Result Not guilty. So if true that driver was wearing seat belt and police officer only got a brief view and could have been mistaken then it may be worth disputing in court.
The court will give you a fair hearing based on the evidence presented. They cannot favour police evidence over yours (test cases on this). Basically either you take the fine on the chin - unfair as it may be, or you contest it. The courts exist to protect you from mis-carriages of justice as well!
I have experience of littering fixed penalty notices. If an issuing officer didn't witness the offence, the fine would be scrapped if it went unpaid. It couldn't be pursued in court as it was issued incorrectly. Dunno if same applies, but it does sound dodgy. Definitely worth sending in a letter. In my city, the letter would be looked at and you would get a letter saying fine cancelled in response.
Also...the 28 days to contest thing versus 40 days or CCTV: once you have submitted a letter of appeal, you HAVE contested within the time. Let them know the grounds of your appeal and state that CCTV info to follow ASAP. Please put a hold on the case until the footage can be obtained. They would look completely unreasonable in front of a court if this letter was presented as evidence and they had proceeded regardless.
I would definitely take this to court. It doesn't usually get that far. I always fight penalty notices & fines if I think they are unfair & usually win. Don't just take it. What if it happens again & he's already got one on the record?
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