Practice and Procedure


PUBLISHED July 4, 2003

The appellants' convictions for speeding offences would be set aside where they had not signed their notice forms under s.172 Road Traffic Act 1988 but the first appellant's case would be remitted for rehearing.Appeals by way of case stated against the decision of the Warrington justices for the conviction of Mawdesley ('M') of a speeding offence and against the decision of Manchester Crown Court upholding Dwight Yorke's ('Y') conviction for speeding. The issues were closely related and it was therefore directed that they be heard together. Both appeals related to speeding offences after which a notice of intended prosecution under s.172 Road Traffic Act 1988 was sent to each of the appellants. The notice required the name, driver number, address, date of birth and occupation of the driver to be filled in and for the notice to be signed and dated. M's and Y's notices were both returned with all of the information (except Y's driver number) but they had not been signed or dated. M did not appear at his hearing but was represented by a solicitor who made a submission of no case to answer on the basis that the court could not rely upon the unsigned response to the requirement to supply information under s.172. The submission was rejected by the magistrates and M was convicted on the basis that filling in his name on the form constituted a signature. Y was convicted of his speeding offence by the magistrates and appealed against conviction to the Crown Court. It was submitted that there was no case to answer as the court could not rely on the unsigned notice and thus there was no admissible evidence against Y. Y did not give evidence but evidence was given by his agent that he had filled in the form but had not been acting under the authority of Y. However the court found that Y's agent was acting with such authority and Y's appeal was dismissed. The appeals gave rise to three issues: (i) whether a s.172 form in which the driver's name was inserted by hand but the signature was left blank was "a statement in writing purporting to be signed by the accused" to which s.12 Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 applied; (ii) whether an unsigned s.172 form identifying the defendant as the driver on the relevant occasion was admissible as evidence of that fact; (iii) if the answer to (ii) was yes, whether together with evidence as to the commission of the offence, such evidence was capable of giving rise to a case to answer.HELD: (1) On the assumption that it was M who inserted his name on the form, it was not possible to infer that he intended that to be treated as his signature. A s.172 form completed without any signature or mark did not satisfy the requirements of s.12. Accordingly the question posed in the case of M must be answered in the negative. (2) If it was properly to be inferred from the evidence before the court that an unsigned s.172 form was made by the defendant, it was admissible in evidence as a confession within the meaning of s.82(1) Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 ('PACE'). (3) The admission of the s.172 forms in evidence did not infringe the appellants' rights to a fair hearing under Art.6European Convention on Human Rights: Brown v Stott (2001) 2 WLR 817. (4) The third issue had to be answered in the affirmative given the conclusion that it was open to the court in each case to infer from the evidence that the entries on the form were made by the appellant. However this was not proven in the case of Y and the prosecution's case had not been advanced on the basis that Y's s.172 form constituted a confession under PACE. Thus Y did not have the opportunity to challenge its admissibility on the basis that it was not made by him and this challenge would have succeeded. Even though the third issue was answered in the affirmative, it followed that his conviction could not stand. (5) The justices decided M's case on the erroneous basis of a signature and this conviction must be set aside and the case remitted for rehearing. Y's conviction must be set aside and as there was no other evidence available to the prosecution upon which to prove the identity of the driver, it was not appropriate to remit the case to the crown court for a rehearing.Judgment accordingly.

[2003] EWHC 1586 (Admin)