What to expect at Court

For most people going to Court is something they have never experienced, nor do they ever wish to go through the process. For those who do find themselves appearing as a defendant at Court it can be a very daunting prospect. Below is a description of what to expect for a defendant pleading guilty to an offence of drink driving in the Magistrates’ Court.


A defendant will be asked to arrive 30 minutes before their listed hearing time, in the Magistrates’ Court there are two sittings each day. The first being the morning session which begins at 10:00am and then the afternoon session which begins at 2:00pm, upon arriving at Court a defendant should go through security and make their way to the Court lists. It is here where the defendant’s name will be and the Court they are appearing in will be confirmed. From here the defendant will make their way to said Court and speak to the usher. These are Court staff who essentially help to arrange the hearings for the Court, they can generally be spotted wearing a black gown and carrying a clipboard. If represented the solicitor or barrister will be outside the Court room waiting for the defendant and will invite them into one of the Court interview rooms to discuss the hearing and what is likely to happy upon entering Court.


Once fully briefed on the hearing and upon the usher’s say so a defendant will be asked to enter Court and stand in the dock. Present in the Court will be the defence solicitor or barrister, a prosecutor who is a representative of the Crown Prosecution Service, a Court Legal Advisor and either a District Judge or three Magistrates’. A District Judge is a solicitor or barrister who has been appointed as a District Judge whereas Lay Magistrates’ are members of the public who volunteer to sit in the Magistrates’ Court. The role of the Legal Advisor is to assist the Magistrates’ with any points of law or indeed any clerical assistance a District Judge may require.


At the beginning of the hearing the defendant will be asked to confirm their name, date of birth, address and plea once the charge is put to them by the Legal Advisor. The prosecution representative will then read a summary of the charge in the case of a guilty plea being entered. Following this the defence representative will put forward mitigation on behalf of the defendant, the aim being to persuade the Court to impose a more lenient sentence given the mitigating circumstances present.


The Magistrates’ or District Judge will then pass sentence and this comes into effect immediately.


A recap of who is who

District Judge


A District Judge or DJ as they generally abbreviated to is a Judge that sits in the Magistrates’ Court and decides on matters before them. A DJ is a solicitor or barrister of at least seven years qualified experience who has been appointed to the position of District Judge. DJ’s generally preside over the most complex matters in the Magistrates’ Court as they are legally trained and qualified.



Lay Magistrates’


Lay Magistrates’ are members of the public that sit in the Magistrates’ Court as volunteers. They are no legally trained and preside over hearings in threes or on occasions twos. They are assisted by the Legal Advisor. There is a chairperson who will provide the Court with any decision reached by the Magistrates’ and be the predominant communicator.


Legal Advisor


The Legal Advisor is a solicitor or barrister who is employed by the Court and acts as an advisor to the Lay Magistrates’. It is not the role of a Legal Advisor to make decisions but rather to assist the Lay Magistrates’ in understanding and interpreting the law when formulating their own decisions on hearings and sentences.


Prosecution Advocate


The prosecutor acts on behalf of the Crown Prosecution Service in the most part and is a solicitor or barrister. There are however over bodies that bring prosecutions such as police prosecutions or those brought by the local authority. The role of prosecutor is to put the case forward for their respective body in the hope of securing a conviction.


Defence Advocate


Anyone brought before the Court has the right to representation, either through government funding namely legal aid and the duty solicitor or they can chose to fund their representation privately. A defence advocate is there to advocate on the defendant’s behalf, be that during a trial or simply to mitigate on their behalf for a guilty plea. A defence advocate will again be a solicitor or barrister in the Magistrates’ Court.




The Usher is a member of the Court staff and is identifiable generally by the wearing of a long black gown and carrying a clip board. The Usher’s role is to work through the Court list with the help of the Legal Advisor and ensure that defendant’s are brought into Court and told where to sit. The Usher is not legally qualified and acts as the organiser in many respect’s of the Court’s diary that day.


Young driver legal debate

The RAC have reported in a recent article that Ministers in the House of Commons are debating whether to further restrict new drivers, the suggested plans would enforce a restriction on new drivers from giving lifts to their young friends. The actions would prevent any driver under the age of 25 from driving young friends around to prevent so called peer pressure crashes.


This new rule if it were to be brought into being would obviously build on the current law regarding recently qualified drivers. As under the New Driver Regulations 1995 a driver is considered to be within a probationary period for the first two years after passing their driving test. If during that time a person accumulates six or more penalty points on their driving licence, then the licence is revoked. Said individual must then retake both aspects of their driving test before they can get back behind the wheel. This restriction is used as a deterrent to new drivers in order to stop them committing minor offences which can lead to penalty points being received. Should the new provisions be in force however, it would prevent new drivers from driving their friends around, the thought process obviously being that multiple young people in a car is a contributing factor to fatal road collisions.


Getting your first car is often a very exciting moment in a young persons life, that first taste of freedom and real independence. Being able to share that experience with friends and travel unhindered without the need for parent taxi’s is considered to be a pivotal moment in a person’s life. That being said youthful exuberance can lead to some rather unsafe behaviour, be that speeding or driving without a thought for other road users, as such it is unsurprising that this new restriction is being considered.


Ensuring that new drivers are not simply out for pleasure rides or travelling between friends’ houses acting foolishly could reduce road traffic collisions and save lives. The practicalities of enforcing such a law however are undoubtedly going to be difficult. Determining who to stop and when will be difficult for the police and could lead them to require more officers out on patrol.


At this stage it is only being debated by Parliament whether or not it becomes law remains to be seen.

No Insurance defence

The offence of driving a motor vehicle without insurance is governed by Section 143 of The Road Traffic Act 1988. It is a summary only offence which means it can only be dealt with in the Magistrates’ Court and upon conviction an individual may expect to receive six to eight penalty points endorsed on their driving licence along with a financial penalty. Driving without insurance is also an offence than can be dealt with, by way of a fixed penalty from the police. This would consist of an offer from the police to pay a £300.00 fine and accept six penalty points rather than go through the Magistrates’ Court.


Driving when having no insurance is often referred to as a strict liability offence. In simple terms this means there is no defence to the offence. Essentially it is very simple, a person is either insured to drive the vehicle or they are not. However one defence is available to an individual who faces prosecution for such a matter. The defence is contained within Section 143 (3) of The Road Traffic Act 1988. It is contained under this subsection that a person who meets the following criteria will have a full defence to driving without insurance, said criteria is:


  1. They were driving in the course of their employment:
  2. The vehicle being driven was owned by their employer: and
  3. Their employer had told them that they were indeed insured to drive the vehicle.


If the Court are satisfied that the above circumstances are present this would afford anyone facing prosecution with a defence. Thus, if this defence is successfully put forward the endorsement of penalty points can be avoided altogether.


Avoiding six – eight penalty points can often be very important to a person. For example, anyone having passed their driving test has a probationary period attached to their driving licence. If six or more points are obtained during this time frame, then a driving licence will be revoked, and that person would need to retake their driving test. Often the booking and completion of a driving test can take many months. Therefore if the penalty points may be avoided due to a defence under statute it is most certainly worthwhile pursuing this course of action.

Drug Driving Help.


The offence of drug driving is outlined under Section 5A of The Road Traffic Act 1988, this section of legislation makes it a criminal offence to drive when the proportion of illegal and some prescription drugs in a person’s blood is over a specified limit. The offence was first introduced in 2015, prior to this there was only the offence of being unfit to drive through drugs which needed an element of impairment to be present, in order for a person to be successfully prosecuted. The change in the law however meant that no evidence of impairment is required for a conviction, thereby bringing the offence of drug driving in line with that of drink driving, which is governed by Section 5 of The Road Traffic Act 1988.


For the police to prosecute a person they must follow a strict set of guidelines, beginning with the stopping of a person whom they have reasonable suspicion to believe is driving whilst over the limit of a drug governed by the legislation. Upon stopping said person the police must then carry out a roadside swab test which involves the taking of a specimen of saliva. This is then used to indicate the presence of drugs within a person’s system. The police must take a suspected drug driver to the police station for a specimen of blood to be obtained, this forms the evidential procedure in drug driving matters.  A specimen of blood can only be taken by a nurse or registered health care professional, an individual must also consent to providing such a specimen and the police must complete the MGDDB procedure. This stipulates that the specimen must be shaken once taken and a suspect offered their own sample of blood to have tested. Should this procedure not be followed correctly then it can lead to acquittals at trial in the Magistrates’ Court.


Upon a specimen of blood being taken it must be stored in a refrigerator at the police station before being transported to a laboratory for testing. It often takes many weeks if not months for the police to obtain a result regarding a specimen of blood. Due to drug driving being a summary offence meaning it is only triable in the Magistrates’ Court the police have six months to lay a charge.


Should a person be charged and subsequently appear before the Magistrates’ Court and be convicted, then they would receive a minimum driving disqualification of 12 months, a fine and Court costs. Obviously, this is dependent on the level of drugs found in a persons system, the more drugs the more severe a sentence that the Court will give. It is also worth noting that for any individual who has a related conviction within the last ten years then a minimum driving disqualification of 36 months will be imposed. Related offences are previous drug or drink driving convictions and failing to provide a specimen for analysis.

Where can a dog legally travel in a car?


There are in the region of 13 million dog’s owned in the UK, as such it is therefore common to see dogs in the vehicles of their owners. Whilst it is perfectly legal to drive with your dog in the car there are a number of rules that must be adhered to when doing so.


Rule 57 of The Highway Code states that a dog must be restrained in a harness, pet carrier, pet cage or dog guard. This is to avoid the dog distracting the driver of the vehicle or indeed injuring them or themselves should the vehicle come to a sudden stop.


Anybody found by the police to be driving with a dog that is not suitably restrained within a vehicle could face prosecution for a number of offences depending on the severity of the incident or lack of restraint. For example:


  1. Not being in proper control of a vehicle:
  2. Driving without due care and attention: or
  3. Dangerous driving.


Prosecution for the above offences can result in penalty points being endorsed on a person’s driving licence, a driving disqualification or in highly serious incidents even a custodial sentence.


As such before setting off on a trip with your dog make sure they are in a safe secure position within the car so as to avoid causing any harm to you, themselves or other road users.

Is driving tired a criminal offence?

There is not currently any criminal offence of driving whilst tired, there are only currently offences of drink driving and drug driving. The police are able to test for alcohol and drugs in a driver’s system by using either a breath, blood or urine test. These capabilities in many respects are what originally allowed the offences of drink driving and drug driving to be legislated upon.


However, there is currently no such testing abilities regarding drowsy drivers. Studies suggest that driving having had less than five hours sleep is just as dangerous as driving when under the influence of alcohol. As such it is no surprise that testing for tiredness in drivers may be on the way.


Scientists in Australia are currently carrying out research and tests in order to produce a blood test that will in fact be able to pinpoint the exact amount of sleep an individual has had. It is thought that this test will be available within the next two years and would be used to test drivers involved in collisions. Fatigue whilst driving is thought to be one of the main causes of road traffic collisions. The scientists are said to now be able to trace five biomarkers in a person’s blood which will indicate if they have been awake for 24 hours or more. The testing for fatigued and drowsy drivers is something that has been called for by sleep experts for some time and would essentially allow the government to legislate against drivers driving having not had sufficient sleep.


The actual method and manner that such a test would be administered is obviously not known at this stage, however taking the example of a blood specimen being taken to test for drugs and alcohol by the police this is done at the police station at the request of the police by a health care professional. As such should legislation be brought in regarding tired driving one can only assume that this would be the method used to carry out the blood test. However the interesting aspect comes when considering how the police would demonstrate a reasonable suspicion that a person has been driving with insufficient sleep. As with drink or drug driving one must assume that the manner of individuals driving will be used as an indicator as to whether or not they have had a lack of sleep before getting behind the wheel.


The practicalities of this new possible road traffic offence will no doubt need to be determined with great detail being needed and much thought given by legislators. Nevertheless, it is highly likely that not having enough sleep and then driving, could in the near future result in a criminal offence.

How Many Units Of Alcohol Before Driving

The sensible answer to this question is that you should avoid drinking any alcohol before driving a vehicle, or make alternative arrangement such as taking public transport, taxis or using a designated driver.

Lots of websites will try and tell you the amount of each type of alcohol you can have and still safely drive but you should not trust this advice.

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Can I Go To Jail for Drink Driving?

People often get surprised by the answer to this question!

Drink driving does indeed carry a custodial sentence. There are many factors in relation to sentencing guidelines for drink driving.

Firstly, the Court will look at your breath/blood/urine reading to see if this crosses the custody threshold and if there are any other aggravating features in your case such as previous convictions, an accident, carrying passengers at the time of the offence etc.

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Electric Scooter UK Law

The UK Government are currently trialling an E-Scooter rental scheme across parts of the country. Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham and Milton Keynes are all currently taking part in the scheme with 11 of the 33 London Boroughs set to roll out E-Scooter rental in the coming months.

We are often asked if these scooters are legal or not and if they can be driving whilst the rider is intoxicated. As well as what happens if I’m caught Drink Driving on an Electric Scooter.

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Pervert the Course of Justice

We are forever receiving enquiries from people, innocently believing that if they name another person they can escape punishment!

They’ve heard stories from a friend of a friend of a friend, who never heard anything back from it so surely it must work?

We can assure you that that it does not work, after representing hundreds of clients over the years after they have put themselves in that position and ultimately been charged with perverting the course of justice!

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What is a Totting Up Ban?

Have you collected 12 points on your licence and might be totting up?

Are you about to reach the maximum points allowance on your licence?

If you are, and you do not wish to lose your licence, call us and we can help you.

Having penalty points added to your driving licence for a driving offence is a common occurrence, ask around and it won’t be hard to find someone who has at least 3. However, if you reach 12 points and tott up, this can lead to disqualification from driving and as a result, huge changes to your every day life.

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