The Court System

Although in certain circumstances, the imposition of penalties for motoring offences bypasses the court system, the most common example being the fixed penalty system, the vast majority of motoring offences pass through the Magistrates Court. These courts will deal not only with where somebody admits offences, but will also deal with trial issues where, for example, a driver might be pleading not guilty to an allegation of drinking and driving on technical grounds. These courts also have to hear Special Reasons and Exceptional Hardship arguments.

Certain offences, especially for example, those of speeding, (which might otherwise bypass the court system), will be brought into the system, if due to their having been committed, there is a prospect of the driver then being disqualified, (either for the nature of the offence itself or due to the earlier accumulation of penalty points). In those circumstances, and indeed with any other case involving disqualification, the matter has to be dealt with by the courts.

Some cases fall into a more serious category and are thus capable of being dealt with by the Crown Court. They involve, for example, offences such as dangerous driving and more seriously offences of causing death by dangerous or careless driving. All such cases though will have been commenced in the Magistrates Court from where they will be sent to the Crown Court if they are of sufficient seriousness. In those circumstances any functions which the Magistrates Court could perform in respect of any matter relating to motoring matters would be exercised by the Crown Court. Any case which is dealt with at the Magistrates Court has an automatic right of appeal to the Crown Court providing the appeal proceedings are commenced within certain time limits.

An appeal can lie against any conviction arrived at by the Magistrates Court and/or any sentence imposed. Any such appeal proceedings are heard in the Crown Court before a judge and two magistrates. An appeal against conviction entails effectively a complete re-trial of the case, and that of an appeal against sentence is simply a rehearsing of the case that was put to the Magistrates against whom the appeal is being sought.

On occasions, a driver who might have been involved in a fatal road accident might find himself becoming involved in a different court venue, that of the Coroner's Court, which sits to hold inquests. In almost all circumstances any driver who has had the misfortune in being involved in any such incident, whether at fault or not, can expect to find himself being required to attend such a court.

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