My wife works at a small supermarket near our home. Occasionally she drives the company van carrying out deliveries and collecting items. She understood that she was insured to drive the van as the shop manager asks her to use the company vehicle. She was stopped by police whilst on a delivery and asked to produce a certificate of insurance. It now turns out that she is not covered under the insurance policy and has been reported for summons to attend court. We feel that she has been treated unfairly as she only did as instructed by his boss. Is there anything she can do?
Ordinarily insurance offences are known as strict liability offences. In other words you either have a policy that covers you or you don’t. If you had been misled into believing there was a valid policy, when in fact none existed, you would still be guilty of the offence but you may be able to argue ‘special reasons’ to persuade the magistrates not to endorse your licence in those circumstances.
In this case, however, your wife may have a statutory defence to the allegation given her employment status at the time.
S.143 (3) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 provides a special defence for employees using vehicles in the course of their employment.
The burden of proof, however, will be on her, on the balance of probabilities, to prove the following:-
- The vehicle did not belong to her.
- The vehicle was not in her possession under a contract of hiring or loan.
- That she was using the vehicle in the course of her employment, and
- That she never knew nor had reason to believe insurance was not in force.
Using the vehicle ‘in the course of your employment’ would not cover any private use of the vehicle and she would need to show that at the time she was stopped she was driving as part of her job and not doing anything that could be said to be outside her employment. Whether driving to or from work could be covered would depend on the particular circumstances at that time.
If she can satisfy the court that all of these elements were in place then she should be found not guilty at trial. Her employer however may still be liable for causing or permitting her to use the vehicle without insurance. A conviction for an offence of no insurance carries a mandatory endorsement of between 6 and 8 penalty points or a disqualification of between six and 12 months.
Please note that this advice was correct at the time of writing. However there may have been changes in the law or procedure since that date. If you are in doubt you should obtain up to date legal advice.