Links to Various Acts of Parliament

Picture of ScalesPrior to 1930 there was no effective regulation of road usage in the UK. The principle sources of law in the present day are all to be found in Acts of Parliament, regulations or EU directives, and the decisions of the courts. The common law of Scotland and England play little part in modern Road Traffic Law.

For most purposes the main regulatory statute is the Road Traffic Act of 1988. This is a UK statute and is interpreted and enforced, in general, consistently within the whole of the UK. Occasionally differences occur in interpretation, but these differences aren't worth considering for present purposes.

Similarly, a number of relatively minor laws apply to England and not to Scotland, again these are not considered here. The Road Traffic Act 1988 contains all the main motoring offences and is consistently applied across the UK by the Courts. It's to this Act that we'll refer.

One further Act, the Road Traffic Offenders Act of 1988, is also important as it regulates the penalties for many motoring offences.

We've attempted to summarise the most common of RTA offences, but haven't even considered providing a comprehensive overview of the law of the road. The subject is a particularly large and technical one.

For most people, their driving license is not only important for leisure but vital for employment. The Courts understand this but don't always, or aren't allowed to, consider this factor in sentencing.

Parliament has very often provided for compulsory driving bans for many offences, especially those with a significant public safety element such as drunk driving and dangerous driving. The Courts have no discretion but to enforce bans. Additionally there's considerable public pressure for habitual offenders to be treated severely, and the courts recognize this. It's now far from unusual to see recidivistic offenders given jail sentences and lengthy bans, sometimes for life, from driving.

Except in the most minor of matters, it's always worthwhile seeking out the advice of a Solicitor in these matters. The complex and technical nature of this area of the law requires that you seek out skilled advice. The consequences of potential loss of employment will often make a visit to a Solicitor an investment rather than a cost.

  • Road Traffic Act 1988

This Act includes Section 172:
"the person keeping the vehicle shall give such information as to the identity of the driver as he may be required to give by or on behalf of a chief officer of police"

Section 23 of the Act details the rules that govern the disclosure of material evidence

  • Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988

The Act also contains the "14 day rule" for the issuing of NIPs following speeding offences recorded by unmanned speed detection equipment such as speed cameras - take a look.

  • Road Traffic Act 1991

This Act contains the legal "loophole" that allowed footballer Dwight Yorke to escape prosecution and this link has the details of that case.

  • Road Traffic Regulation (Special Events) Act 1994
  • Road Traffic (Temporary Restrictions) Act 1991

The "bible" of what is and what isn't allowed on the public highway

  • The Convention Rights - ECHR

Relevant Articles of the European Convention on Human Rights

  • Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996

This Act details your legal right to evidence if you decide to contest the charge. The Important paragraph is 1(1)(a) - take a look

  • This link will take you to the full list of Acts passed between 1988 and the present day.

The Law in Scotland

The criminal law in Scotland is completely different to that in the rest of the UK. However, as they regulate the use of Her Majesty's Highways, the Road Traffic Acts do apply in Scotland. So, although the way that your case will be handled by the judicial system in Scotland will be completely different, the offence will refer to the same Road Traffic Acts. Here are some links to other information that you may find useful:

  • Regulatory Bodies
  • Reference reading

"Road Traffic Law in Scotland, 3rd edition" - by John Wheatley QC

The Ruling in Dwight York's Case

The Crown must be able to prove in court that the following requirement of the Road Traffic Act 1988 has been complied with:
"Measurement of any speed by a device designed or adapted for measuring by radar the speed of motor vehicles shall not be admissible unless the device is of a type approved by the Secretary of State".

Mr York's solicitor insisted, quite rightly, on the police proving that the speed gun was officially authorised for use. He asked them to produce a certificate for the device outlining the Home Office's conditions of use. However, they couldn't do so.

So after deliberating for 45 minutes, the magistrates threw out the charge. Oliver Beck, the chairman of the bench, said:
"We do not find the evidence of the pro-laser device admissible. In the absence of evidence from the device, we only have that of the police officer and we do not feel satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant was exceeding the speed limit."

The latest (22nd) edition of Wilkinson's Road Traffic Offences, the motoring lawyer's bible, states:
"It should be noted that it is incumbent upon the prosecution in a speeding case to prove that the Secretary of State has approved the use of the radar gun in question before the measurement of speed given by it can be admitted in evidence."

The BBC News website has more on this story.

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