Driving through a red light or failing to comply with any other road traffic sign, including road markings is an offence. These offences are usually dealt with by fixed penalty. If a fixed penalty is not issued by the police or, if it is refused by the driver, then any prosecution must be raised within 6 months from the date of the offence.
The penalties for failing to comply with a traffic signal or other traffic sign are 3 penalty points and a fine. The court also has discretion to disqualify. In most cases, these offences are dealt with by way of Fixed Penalty irrespective of whether a driver has been stopped by the police at the time of the offence or caught on camera. However, in some cases, where a driver fails to comply with a traffic sign, they could face a prosecution for careless driving.
Notice of Intended Prosecution
If a driver has been caught on camera a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) must be issued to the owner of the vehicle within 14 days. This includes a requirement to provide details of the driver at the time of the offence. Failure to comply with this requirement is a separate offence which carries 6 points. A fixed penalty cannot be accepted if a driver is subject to disqualification under totting up provisions. In these circumstances a court summons will be issued, and the driver will be required to attend court. The same procedure is followed if a driver denies the offence or refuses a fixed penalty.
Traffic Sign Regulations
There are strict rules governing traffic signs, traffic lights and road markings. Most of the legislation in this area is contained in the Traffic Sign Regulations & General Directions 2002. For instance, traffic signs must conform to these regulations in terms of size, colour, and type. In addition, signs must be lawfully placed in order that the driver is made aware of the restriction, prohibition or requirement conveyed by the traffic sign.
Unlike other road traffic offences, the prosecution does not require to corroborate the offence of failing to comply with a traffic sign. The evidence of one police officer is enough. Furthermore, in all cases of this type there is a presumption that the traffic signs comply with all the regulations, unless the contrary is proved. This means the onus is on the defence to establish that traffic signage is inadequate or defective and, therefore, not lawful.
Driving through a Red Light
The most common traffic sign offence is running a red light. A driver is just as likely to be stopped by the police at the time of the offence as he is to be caught on camera. Either way the offence is usually dealt with by a Fixed Penalty of 3 points and a fine of £100.
It is important to note that photographic evidence and even the evidence of police officers can be challenged. However, any such challenge must be properly done. In addition, a factual defence of denial is always open to a driver who disputes the allegation. In camera cases the prosecution must prove that the device was calibrated and checked for accuracy. The prosecution may attempt to prove that a device is accurate and reliable by producing certificates. Documentary evidence of this type can also be challenged.
A potential defence is also available if the traffic lights are not working properly on the basis that the signals do not comply with the appropriate regulations. However, the onus is on the defence to establish that the traffic lights were not working.
Proceeding beyond a red light because of an emergency is not a defence, however it might amount to a special reason that would avoid endorsement of penalty points. In theory, the offence is even committed where a driver goes through a red light to allow an emergency vehicle to pass. However, in these circumstances, the prosecution is unlikely to seek a conviction or raise proceedings in the first place.
If you have been charged in relation to going through a red light within the Highlands and Islands, contact our office for advice on your options in defending this charge.