Right to Remain Silent – Or Self Incrimination?.

As you will know, one of the enshrined principles of our legal system is to be able to remain silent without self incrimination.

Equally, however, Section 172 Road Traffic Act 1978 is something of an inroad into this principle. The effect of that Section is that for certain road traffic offences (including infringing a speed camera) one is obliged to disclose who was driving your vehicle at the time of the alleged offence. Failure to do so can result in a separate offence.

Over the years, the popular press has purported to put forward ways and means of getting round these things. My own personal opinion is that most of the suggestions have not been foolproof.

Now we await the decision of the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in two cases. A few years ago Mr O’Halloran and Mr Francis were caught speeding in separate incidents by speed cameras. Each was subsequently informed that the Police intended to prosecute the driver of the vehicle and they were asked for the full name and address of the driver on the relevant occasions or to supply other information that was in their individual powers to give and lead to the driver’s identification. Each was informed that failure to comply was a criminal offence under Section 172.

Mr O’Halloran answered confirming that he was indeed the driver at the relevant time. Mr Francis, however, wrote to the Police invoking his right to silence and privilege against self incrimination.

Mr O’Halloran was tried before North Essex Magistrates’ Court. He sought unsuccessfully to have his confession excluded as evidence relying on Section 78 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 in conjunction with Article 6 of the Convention (relating to human rights). He was convicted of exceeding the speed limit and fined £100 and ordered to pay £150 costs. His licence was endorsed with 6 penalty points. An application for judicial review was refused.

Mr Francis was summoned for failing to provide the information. He was convicted and fined £750 with £250 costs and 3 penalty points.

Both have now made application to the European Court of Human Rights and decisions are currently awaited.

Sadly, even if the cases go against the UK Government do not get too excited, those Judgments will simply be declaratory. However, they will provide useful ammunition for a change of law (if people want it).

Further information can be obtained from the website for the European Court of Human Rights.

This information is given in good faith. However, neither Bikers Advice nor its servants or agents can be responsible for any inaccuracies. Every case in different and the law can change. Always obtain professional advice in your particular case.

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