Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN)
An increasing number of offences can now be dealt with by Fixed Penalty Notices. They are commonly used for cases where there is photographic evidence, specifically speeding, traffic light contraventions and more recently, failing to comply with yellow box junctions and no right/left turns.
Although the Fixed Penalty would normally be a conditional offer of 3 penalty point and a £100 fine, for some more serious offences, such as driving without insurance, which would carry a higher number of penalty points, many Police forces offer a fixed penalty of 6 penalty points and a £300 fine.
The benefit to the Police is that it disposes of matters promptly and avoids a Court appearance which is attractive to many offenders. However, it should be appreciated that when accepting a Fixed Penalty, a motorist cannot negotiate or try to obtain a more lenient punishment. Further, acceptance is final so if you are in any doubt about how to proceed, use the 28 day acceptance period in order to consider your options.
When will the Fixed Penalty Notice be issued?
If you are stopped by the Police, the Officer can issue a Fixed Penalty Notice there and then on the basis that you agree to that procedure and by accepting the Notice, you would not face a potential "totting up" ban. Consequently, if you have 9 points or more on your licence, the Police will not issue a Fixed Penalty Notice as by accepting same, the motorist would face a "totting up" ban of at least 6 months. It is the Officer's choice as to whether or not a Fixed Penalty Notice will be issued. However, for certain offences, which are felt to be too serious to be punished by way of a conditional offer, a Summons / Requisition must be issued.
When the driver is not stopped at the time of the allegation, a Fixed Penalty can be issued by the Process Unit/Camera Enforcement Office, but only when the offender has confirmed their identify by responding to a Notice of Intended Prosecution. As with a Summons, the Fixed Penalty must be issued within 6 months of the offence.
Can I dispute the Fixed Penalty Notice?
Yes. It is a "conditional" offer so if you do not wish to accept the Notice or the conditions, you have 28 days in which to reject it. Careful attention should be given to this process, as in some circumstances doing nothing amounts to acceptance, with the result that the punishment will be processed, which can lead to a licence being suspended and a fine enforced without any Court hearing.
Any person who wishes to reject the Notice is entitled to seek a Court hearing, but by doing so, the offer is withdrawn and thus the Court can impose a higher punishment upon conviction.
I don't dispute the Fixed Penalty Notice, but I want to argue mitigation. How do I proceed?
Accepting the Fixed Penalty does not allow the option to challenge / mitigate the offence. A Fixed Penalty Notice is actually a "conditional offer" from the prosecution. For all intents and purposes, the recipient is being given a "take it or leave it" option. If you dispute the allegation , your option is to ask for a Court hearing.
In the majority of cases the proposal is 3 penalty points and £100 fine. There is no flexibility on this and thus a plea of mitigation is not relevant. You either take the proposal or if you wish to argue about the level of fine/penalty points, you reject the offer and demand your day in Court which will result in a Summons being issued. The attraction of the scheme from the prosecution's point of view is it involves the least amount of effort and expense on their part and in exchange for that, the Defendant is offered the minimum number of penalty points and a "nominal" fine. The latter also avoids means testing.
If you feel that the proposal is too severe, then you can argue your case but do not expect a great deal of sympathy from the Court, which has the option to increase the fine and penalty points, if it feels that your arguments have no merit.
The fact is, if the offence has been committed, the conditional offer is probably the best deal that you are going to get. To take the matter further can often result in higher punishment and substantially more expense, particularly if the Court imposes its right to means test you before deciding on a fine.
Whilst we appreciate that nobody likes penalty points or fines, the best advice we can give is if the offence has been committed, take the fixed penalty; don't throw good money after bad and don't dispute cases on a point of principle.
If I write and tell the Process Office that I am very sorry, this is the first offence and I only broke the speed limit because I was under a lot of pressure, will they withdraw the allegation?
Although everybody knows someone who says that they have got out of a Fixed Penalty Notice by asking for sympathy, the Process Office does not have any discretion or power to waiver a Notice. If you believe you have a defence, or "special reasons" as to why you should not receive an endorsement, then you should ask for a Court hearing. The Process Office will not review or consider the merits of cases, it is simply a process facility for despatching Notices and collecting fines. It should be stressed that remorse, previous good record and a promise not to re–offend are not "special reasons", which has a precise legal criteria for exceptional circumstances arising at the time of the offence.
I have a clean driving record, why should I have the same penalty as somebody who has already committed an offence?
The offer is as it says, a "fixed penalty" and the punishment is fixed for the offence, not for the driver. If you believe that the punishment is too severe, you have the option to argue your case at Court but you are unlikely to obtain any benefit by way of a reduced penalty.
I admit the offence, but want to avoid the penalty points. Can I pay a higher fine instead?
No. The Process Office does not have any discretion and the terms of the conditional offer are very clear, you either accept the exact terms offered or you ask for a Court hearing.
If I want to dispute the Fixed Penalty Notice, can I demand the photographic evidence?
If you dispute either the offence or the severity of the offence (ie the speed at which you were travelling) then the prosecution will proceed on the basis that you have rejected the conditional offer. The matter should therefore proceed by way of a Summons, at which point the prosecution are obliged to supply evidence to you. This should be served as soon as possible but certainly no later than 7 clear days prior to the Court case.
I don't want to accept the Fixed Penalty before I have seen the evidence, what are my entitlements?
The Fixed Penalty is designed to "streamline" the process, with the result that many Police forces simply refuse to supply evidence stating that this will only be produced if the conditional offer is rejected and a Court hearing requested. Although there is no legal obligation to disclose evidence prior to a Summons being commenced, most Police forces will allow access to information upon request and others do disclose it by way of a website or post etc. In our experience, if you don't ask, you don't get. If you want to see the evidence, be persistent and you will probably obtain same.
I have received several Fixed Penalty Notices for offences which occurred within a few minutes of each other. Can I argue that they are all the same offence?
If the Notices relate to different incidents, which can be separated by place or time, then they will be treated as separate offences and you will not be able to argue that they are one and the same. However, it may be possible to "plea bargain" at Court, which may result in a better outcome.
I have a photocard licence, what do I send in?
If you wish to accept the conditional offer, you should send both parts of your driving licence (the photocard and the endorsement sheet) to the Process Office.
I accept the offence, but I have a foreign driving licence. Should I send that in?
If you hold an EC or EU licence, the process unit will clarify how to accept the conditional offer. If your licence is from outside the EC, you will be unable to accept the Fixed Penalty and the case will be referred to Court.
I want to accept the offer but have mislaid my licence, what can I do?
The Process Section can only deal with your case if you supply your licence and your cheque together. If you just send a cheque, they will return it (probably with a Summons) as they must endorse your licence at the same time. You have 28 days in which to respond to the conditional offer so you can either obtain a replacement licence from the DVLA during that time or if you have not received a replacement licence before the 28 days expires, write to the Process Office, seeking an extension of time and explaining why you need more time. They will normally assist.
I cannot afford to pay the fine, can I ask for extra time?
If you cannot comply with the terms of the offer (ie by paying immediately) then you cannot accept it. If you need more time to pay, then you will have to ask for a Court Summons but it is unlikely that the fine will be any less and you will probably have to pay for costs on top.
When should I seek legal advice?
If you accept that the allegation is correct and you intend to plead guilty, to be honest there is little benefit to be gained by getting a legal representative to respond on your behalf. The fine/penalty points will be unchanged. However, if you have any doubt or want to dispute the allegation/evidence, then you should seek legal advice immediately. Motor Lawyers will investigate the matter and review the evidence and advise you fully, initially under our Summary Telephone Advice Service.