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NOTE - DVLA Cannot Prosecute After 6 Months

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I want to make clear I am NOT offering legal advice here -

 

I wish to draw people's attention to an area of law that the general public are often not aware of - but the DVLA exploits this lack of knowledge to often bully people into submission for the vast majority of their fines.

 

I have seen countless examples on here, and I myself have also been on the receiving end of it, and the routine typically goes -

1. DVLA threatens to prosecute driver for alleged offence (late licensing penalty, keeping an unregistered vehicle on the public road, various offences under VERA, etc.)

2. Initially they scare the person by claiming that they could be subject to all sorts of criminal penalties and maximum fines if found guilty

3. Then they offer some reduced out of court settlement offer that if you pay on time will let them agree to close the matter

4. Some people scared pay up immediately, others who begin by making their case only continue to be threatened and ultimately pay in order to avoid the fear of going to court

 

In the vast majority of cases the result is the same - the driver gets fleeced by the DVLA.

 

What I want to bring to your attention is that all offences DVLA can/threatens to prosecute people for in relation to vehicle registration are SUMMARY OFFENCES. Please do not be confused with motoring offences prosecuted by the police such as driving under the influence, failing to name a driver, etc. as these can be either way offences.

 

SUMMARY OFFENCES

 

Under Section 1 of the Magistrates' Court Act 1980 proceedings for a summary offence must be commenced within 6 months of the alleged offence being committed.

 

In my case they contacted me last November threatening to prosecute me for an alleged VERA offence that took place in January (11 months prior). I told them that despite the fact that I protested my innocence they would not be able to prosecute me as they had not commenced proceedings within 6 months for this Summary offence, so I would not be entertaining their allegations. I continued to receive threats for a while but ultimately they shied away and said the case had been closed giving no reason - the reason was because they knew all along they were unable to prosecute me at that time and their threats were nothing more than hot air trying it on to try and extract some money from me.

 

In a great number of cases I have seen people post on here the offence being alleged occurred much longer than 6 months ago and they are still playing ball with DVLA who are simply trying to get them to fork up for something they no longer have any authority to prosecute.

 

LIMITATION PERIOD - 6 MONTH RULE

 

I have to make it clear that if DVLA are contacting you within 6 months of the offence they are alleging then please do not misunderstand what I'm saying - DVLA can and do prosecute people where they are able to AND THE TIME LIMITS APPLY!

 

If however you are like me and many others on the back end of DVLA's inefficient backlog, and they are contacting you about an allegation that occurred more than 6 months ago then keep in mind they are now statute barred from bringing any prosecution against you so their threats are effectively lies to get you to pay them as there is very little action they now have the ability to take against you. In this case, I would always simply tell them that I'm innocent however as the limitation period has now expired for them to commence proceedings against me I will take any further threats of prosecution in these circumstances to be false statements and I will not be entertaining this matter further.

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Thank you.

Do you have a source for this please


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Thank you.

Do you have a source for this please

 

The OP cited a source and their rationale, but isn't correct on what the Magistrates Court Act S1 says : it doesn't say "proceedings must commence within 6 months" (not in its original or amended current form).

 

 

What I want to bring to your attention is that all offences DVLA can/threatens to prosecute people for in relation to vehicle registration are SUMMARY OFFENCES. Please do not be confused with motoring offences prosecuted by the police such as driving under the influence, failing to name a driver, etc. as these can be either way offences.

 

SUMMARY OFFENCES

 

Under Section 1 of the Magistrates' Court Act 1980 proceedings for a summary offence must be commenced within 6 months of the alleged offence being committed.

 

However, the OP is correct about the 6 months limit (within which the information must be laid before the court) ; but it isn't in S1 - it is in S127 of the Magistrates Court Act 1980.

 

127. Limitation of time.

 

(1) Except as otherwise expressly provided by any enactment and subject to subsection (2) below, a magistrates' court shall not try an information or hear a complaint unless the information was laid, or the complaint made, within 6 months from the time when the offence was committed, or the matter of complaint arose.

 

(2) Nothing in—

(a) subsection (1) above; or

 

(b) subject to subsection (4) below, any other enactment (however framed or worded) which, as regards any offence to which it applies, would but for this section impose a time-limit on the power of a magistrates' court to try an information summarily or impose a limitation on the time for taking summary proceedings,

 

shall apply in relation to any indictable offence.

So (my understanding is):

a) confirm it is a summary only alleged offence.

b) confirm they are outside the 6 months, and if they haven't already laid the information with the court, they can't, saving any statutory exceptions (such as if the offender couldn't be identified, and has only now been identified).

Note that the summons doesn't have to be within 6 months, just the fact the information has been laid in front of the court.

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Others will be more aware I am sure but as with the CSA and other Gov Depts I dont think the statue of limitations applies to debts against the Crown and it is clear that by effectively taking the"offence" out of the criminal into the civil (section 7A of the Vehicle Excise Registration Act 1994 and in the Road Vehicle (Registration and Licensing ) Regulations 2002) they avoid the six month rule however if a debt collection agency working for DVLA threatens to take to court for a criminal offence rather than suggesting as they do that civil action will be taken that would be a breach of the Debt collection practice. I always copy any letters /docs sent to DVLA ( particularly Driving Licences) and send recorded saved me from being told that I had never had a licence!

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This is an interesting read from an FOI but no definitive answer.

www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/purpose_of_late_licensing_fee

 

So DVLA are saying it is a summary offence (Magistrates Court), but a civil debt (not criminal), but they don't pursue them through the County Court (the usual venue for lower value civil debts).

 

So that is clear as mud, then!

 

If taken to the magistrates : use the 6 month approach.

If pursued by DCA's, what is to stop people just ignoring them unless / until they issue an actual LBA or claim? (I'm not advocating this, but merely noting DVLA's comment that they don't take these to the County Court.....)

 

Any views on if debts to the crown have a 6 year statue bar akin to most civil debts, or if can't become statute barred as a "debt to the Crown"?

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from a bit of digging hmrc tax and vat definitely are not statute barred, Benefit overpayments should be dealt with within six years, Council tax /poll tax its six years max to obtain a liability order, but the liability order does not seem to have a sell by date.

CSA I know chase debts well over 12 years

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So DVLA are saying it is a summary offence (Magistrates Court), but a civil debt (not criminal), but they don't pursue them through the County Court (the usual venue for lower value civil debts).

 

So that is clear as mud, then!

 

The Late Licensing Penalty is treated as a civil debt, due to the crown and if not paid, the DVLA take any action (via debt collectors) in the County Court. It is not a summary offence, (as some vehicle licensing matters are) which are dealt with in Magistrates Court.

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