Magistrates’ Courts in England and Wales process around half a million charges for motoring offences every year. This makes up about a quarter of its entire workload.

Due to the unprecedented volume of motoring convictions recorded by the Courts it is inevitable that a certain percentage of them will be recorded in the motorists’ absence. As experienced driving offence lawyers we are receiving an increasing number of enquiries from people who do not find out about their motoring offence conviction until they receive notification from the DVLA that they have failed to submit their driving licence for endorsement.

It can take several months for a Court summons or requisition to be sent to a driver after the alleged offence has taken place. Convictions in absence often occur when someone has moved house in that period. Due to the fact that the summons is sent to the old address the driver does not find out about it until after the hearing in the Magistrates’ Court by which time they have already been convicted, fined and had points ordered to be endorsed on their licence. This normally arises in relation to less serious offences such as speeding or failure to furnish information and is probably the most common example of when a conviction in absence can occur.

As driving offence lawyers, another situation that we recently encountered was a simple case of mistaken identity by the DVLA. Our client had no knowledge of the offence or of the vehicle alleged to have committed the offence. Due to the fact that, according to DVLA records, his name and date of birth matched that of the convicted person, he was sent a notice in the post stating that the Court had ordered endorsement of his licence. This was despite that, not only was he innocent of any wrongdoing but that he had never driven and had no knowledge of the vehicle involved.

A motoring conviction recorded in absence can be overturned by way of a statutory declaration which must be made within 21 days of finding out about the proceedings. An appointment to make a statutory declaration can be made in any Court in England and Wales and does not have to be made at the Court that the case was first heard in. A statutory declaration has the effect of setting aside the conviction and any penalty imposed as a result. Under normal circumstances, the summons will then be re-issued to the correct address resulting in the person being in exactly the same situation as if they had received the original summons.

However, if you have been sentenced in absence and accept that you did commit the offence it is important to consider whether making a statutory declaration will be worthwhile. If the case is set aside and you are subsequently convicted again of the offence there is no guarantee that you will be subject to a more lenient penalty than was initially imposed.

If you have been convicted in absence and would like to discuss your options with driving offence lawyers call us now on 0800 433 4678.