Section 1, Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988

For certain road traffic offences the driver must be given a warning that he faces prosecution. This is done by issuing a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP). Common offences requiring a NIP include: dangerous driving, careless driving, speeding and disobeying traffic signs and traffic signals. The NIP can be given verbally by the police at the time of the offence or a formal letter can be sent by post.

Formal Notice of Intended Prosecution

A formal or written NIP is typically issued in speeding and traffic light cases where the offence has been caught on camera and the driver has not been stopped by the police at the time of the offence. More often than not the only information available to the police is the make and registration number of the vehicle involved. The NIP will therefore be sent to the Registered Keeper of the vehicle. Such a notice will contain details of the offence and a requirement to identify the driver at the time of the offence.

Exceptions to the Rule

A NIP is not required following an accident or where a Fixed Penalty Notice has been given.

What’s Required

The NIP must be served on the registered keeper within 14 days of the offence. Service can be done by first class post, recorded delivery or by hand delivery. A failure to comply with the 14 day time limit is usually fatal to the prosecution case.

The NIP must comply with other requirements which include details of the offence, the date and the location. It must also be signed and dated.

The NIP only needs to be sent to the registered keeper of the vehicle within 14 days to satisfy the service requirement. This is significant because the driver at the time of the offence may be someone other than the registered keeper. In order to ascertain who was driving a number of NIPs may be issued. This would arise if the registered keeper identified someone else who, in turn, nominates another person as the driver. This is very common with vehicles that have been borrowed, sold, hired or leased. The only obligation on the police is to serve the original NIP within 14 days.

Once the identity of the driver has been established the police will then decide on the next course of action. In all likelihood the driver will be issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice or a Court Summons.

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NIP Defences

It will be assumed that the prosecution have complied with all the NIP requirements, unless the contrary is proved by the defence. Accordingly, if it is contended that the NIP was sent after the expiry of the 14 day period it will be necessary to satisfy the court to this effect. It is important to note, however, that in some circumstances, even where a NIP is received after 14 days it may still be valid.

Identifying the Driver – “The 172 Requirement”

If a driver is not stopped at the time of the offence it is unlikely his identity will be known to the police. For this reason the NIP will also contain a requirement to identify the person who was driving at the time of the alleged offence. This is also known as the “172 Requirement”

In short, Section 172 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 creates a legal obligation on a person to provide the name and address of the driver at the time of the alleged offence. A period of 28 days is usually given to provide this information. If no response is forthcoming the police can bring a charge against the registered keeper of the vehicle, or any other person, for failing to provide the relevant information.

The terms of section 172 impose strict duties on people to clearly identify the driver of a vehicle at a particular time. Individuals who ignore or seek to evade the requirement by claiming that they simply “don’t know” will find themselves on the wrong side of a prosecution. Of course, such a response is wholly understandable, especially if the offence took place some time ago. Nonetheless, the law requires that you must make every effort to provide these details. Although the police are not obliged to release photographic evidence at this stage, they will often do so on request.


The penalties for non-compliance of the 172 Requirement are 6 penalty points and a fine of up £1000. The court also has the power to impose a period of disqualification. Even if you were not the driver at the time of the original offence you could still receive 6 penalty points for failing to provide the relevant information to the police.

Separate charges for attempting to pervert the course of justice can be raised if you name someone else as the driver when you know they were not. The MP Chris Hume and his wife were imprisoned for falsely identifying who the driver was in respect of a minor road traffic offence which carried penalty points and a fine.

Defences to the 172 Requirement

The law allows a person charged with failing to identify the driver of a vehicle to rely on the statutory defence of “Reasonable Diligence”. In short this means that you have made a real effort and taken all practical steps to find out who was driving. The onus is therefore on you to establish that you do not know and could not, with reasonable diligence, ascertain the identity of the driver.

Further defences may be available if you can establish that the requirement was not received by you or that your reply was not received by the police.

How we can help

As with most other motoring offences contraventions under these sections are complex and difficult to defend. If you have received a Notice of Intended Prosecution along with a Section 172 Requirement and you’re not sure what to do it is important to obtain expert advice from a specialist road traffic lawyer as quickly as possible. As specialist road traffic lawyers we are best placed to give you the right advice. Our experience and expertise in this area will quickly determine the merits of the case and the best option for you. Early advice can save time and expense. If you have just received a NIP we are happy to guide you through the procedure. We pride ourselves in offering a service that is friendly, honest and reliable. For free advice that is without pressure or obligation simply contact us:

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