What is a Single Justice Procedure Notice?
Court proceedings for endorsable motoring offences (those that carry penalty points) are normally begun by a Single Justice Procedure. This has widely replaced the issuing of a summons or postal requisition for low level motoring offences. It is a procedure whereby a Single Magistrate may sentence a Defendant or refer the case for a full hearing.
Why was the new procedure introduced?
Before the procedure was introduced, every offence – however minor – would be given a hearing date and time and this was considered to be an unnecessary drain on Court time and resources. Introduced by the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015, the Single Justice Procedure was designed to save Court time in cases where a full hearing may not be necessary. Magistrates’ Courts were finding that their Court lists were becoming clogged up with low level motoring offences. The Single Justice Procedure has been introduced in order that, wherever possible, less serious motoring offences can be heard without the need for a full Court hearing.
To what offences can a Single Justice Procedure apply?
Any motoring offence which does not carry mandatory disqualification may be subject to a Single Justice Procedure. This includes:-
- Failure to furnish information as to the identity of the driver under s172 Road Traffic Act 1988;
- Using a mobile phone whilst driving;
- Driving or using vehicle without insurance;
- Contravening traffic signals;
- Driving without due care and attention
Receiving a Single Justice Procedure Notice
Single Justice Procedure Notices are issued by the police by post. They must be issued within 6 months of the offence and be accompanied by the charge itself. The documents enclosed within the notice normally include:
What is the Plea Form?
This is the form on which the defendant may enter a ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’ plea and post it to the Court by post. This sometimes includes a space for any written mitigation to be included in the event that a guilty plea is entered.
As an alternative to completing the plea form, the plea may be entered online. When doing so be sure to have your driving licence number, National Insurance number and Unique Reference Number (URN) for the case (which is normally printed on the top right hand side of the Single Justice Procedure Notice).
What is the Means Form?
This is the form on which a Defendant who pleads guilty must provide personal financial details. If a guilty plea is entered the Single Justice will decide the fine amount based on the severity of the offence and the disclosed weekly income. If entering the plea online an online version of this document will be made available.
Although it is not always provided, the police should include the evidence upon which the prosecution relies, for example in the case of a speeding offence detected by a fixed camera, a witness statement which exhibits photographs of the offence could be used.
How should I respond to a Single Justice Procedure Notice?
A plea must be entered either by post or online within 21 days of receiving the notice. It is always advisable to seek legal advice wherever possible before deciding on the appropriate plea to any charge.
If you plead guilty to the charge you may include written mitigation in relation to the offence itself and your personal circumstances.
If you plead not guilty to the charge you will be requested to identify in writing (or using the online form) what the basis of your defence is and which of the witnesses for whom statements have been provided you require to attend the trial.
What happens at a Single Justice Procedure?
The procedure takes place in private with one legal adviser and a Magistrate. It is not a public hearing therefore no other persons are allowed to attend, including the defendant, legal representatives, the prosecution or witnesses.
In the case of a guilty plea having been entered, the Single Justice will consider the mitigation provided before deciding how to deal with the case. The Single Justice has the power to deal with the case by imposing penalty points and a fine for the offence. However, if they consider that this would be inappropriate because the gravity of the offence requires a full hearing they may refer the case for a full hearing before a full bench of three Magistrates or a District Judge. Typically they will do so if they consider that disqualification from driving is a serious possibility as a disqualification cannot be imposed at the Single Justice Procedure. In cases of high level speeding offences (eg. over 110mph on the motorway) it is highly likely that a full hearing will be listed. Other cases may not be as clear cut and it may be possible to persuade the Single Justice to impose points in absence rather than list a full hearing. In such cases, the quality of the written representations should not be underestimated and can make all the difference to the outcome of the case.
If you do not wish for your case to dealt with by the Single Justice you may request a full hearing – you should then receive notice of when this hearing will be taking place either by post or e-mail.
If a not guilty plea is entered then the case will be referred for a full hearing, either for a Case Management Hearing or trial. You will be notified of the date of this hearing by post or e-mail. If the case is listed for trial then it will normally be necessary for the Defendant to attend this hearing with his or hers appointed legal representative.
Can the Single Justice deal with my case if I am facing disqualification under totting up?
No as the Single Justice does not have the power to consider disqualification from driving. If a guilty plea is entered and the number of existing points makes it likely that the total number of points following conviction will reach 12 or more, the Single Justice will normally refer the case for a full hearing at which your attendance will be required.
After the Single Justice Procedure, a notice of proposed driving disqualification may also be issued which provides the option of either requesting a full hearing at which you can put forward an exceptional hardship argument or be disqualified from driving in absence. This normally requires a response within 14 days.
What if I don’t respond to a Single Justice Procedure Notice?
Failing to respond to a Single Justice Procedure Notice within 21 days will result in the case proceeding in the Defendant’s absence. The Single Justice may find the Defendant guilty in absence and sentence him if appropriate.
How can Kenway Miller Solicitors help you?
In the first instance we will review the papers you have received free of charge and advise you in relation to whether there may be a defence. If after receiving our advice you decide to enter a guilty plea to the charge then we can draft the representations to be sent to the Single Justice at this stage with a view to the case being finalised without the need for a full hearing.
If a not guilty plea is to be entered then the approach taken and the manner in which the Single Justice Procedure Notice is handled can make a significant difference to the outcome of the case.
If you are at risk of disqualification due to totting up, then it is important that action is taken at this early stage to minimise the risk of losing your driving licence.
For a free, no obligation consultation please call us or complete the contact form.