Some years ago, in an attempt to reduce the danger presented by drivers, who on the most part have little consideration for the wellbeing of themselves or other road users, the government introduced the power to seize uninsured motor vehicles known as Section 165 of the Road Traffic Act.
There is a slight issue of this power flying in the face of the Magna Carter - no fine or seizure without Order of the Court -but leaving that rather big issue to one side, I think the vast majority of the law abiding public think it's right this action is taken, and whereas driving without insurance may have been considered quite run of the mill 20 years ago, it's now socially unacceptable and transgressors are dealt with harshly.
Only trouble is... driving without third party insurance is known as a "strict liability" offence, which means you're either guilty of that offence or you're not. However much justification and even proof a driver is able to produce that they had a genuinely held belief that they were insured is irrelevant - and this is where cracks in the system start to appear.
Now none of this affects me since I do not, and cannot drive - but I am a huge believer in the rule of law, which goes hand in hand with the average law abiding person (known in legal circles as the man on the Clapham Omnibus) respecting those laws.
This post was prompted by one of those 'traffic cops' type shows appearing on my TV during a channel hop. Truthfully I really can't stand them for very long - but a driver was featured who had been pulled over due to an activation on the traffic officers' automatic number plate system (ANPR) indicating that he had no insurance. The driver produced a certificate from e-sure.com , which when explored by the police turned out to have been issued legitimately, but cancelled due to bounced direct debit payments - an issue which the driver, quite convincingly said he was unaware of.
Now if we're being sanctimonious, we could give the kind of answer to this issue as given by one of the officers (brought to you through the magic of live rewind on sky digital), "The reason that we didn't feel sorry for him is because legally, in this country you have to have insurance on your car. You cannot take a vehicle on the road without insurance", but in my own view, this kind of attitude toward generally law abiding members of the public leaves that member of the public with a bitter taste in their mouth - and for what it's worth, is probably partly responsible for a general fall in respect levels for police, the majority of whom, I honestly believe are doing the best they can, but all should remember that police officers are not supposed to be judges of law. But the point is that thousands of people could be driving with no insurance without even realising.
Is it time therefore to re-visit the laws surrounding third party insurance in the
This writer would never advocate a softening approach to uninsured drivers, but
given that there are criminal consequences for missed or confused payments (I'm
not going to enter in to argument about criminal consequences here because it
is a criminal offence, and a permanent record is kept by the DVLA, and it will
therefore show up on any check of the police national computer - a criminal
record to all intents and purposes) is it time to change the rules governing
partial payments and withdrawal of an insurance policy. UK
As one possible solution, should any insurer who has accepted a customer on a payment plan be required to serve legal papers on anyone who they wish, for whatever reason to stop insuring before their insurance is invalidated, and their car index number removed from the motor insurance bureaux database? Or perhaps payment plans should be dealt with as a credit arrangement that must be chased through the civil courts if defaulted upon?
I'm not soft on uninsured drivers, but isn't it time to introduce safeguards to prevent law abiding people becoming unwitting criminals? Isn't this the only way to maintain respect in the law?
This writer neither drives, nor has any criminal conviction of any kind.