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We are pleased to present information regarding an unsigned forms case in Bristol Crown Court.

IN THE BRISTOL CROWN COURT                         CASE NO: A20020257 


B E T W E E N:

JOHN PICKFORD Appellant  and THE CROWN Respondent


Mark Laprell for Mr. Pickford
Mr G Mullin for the Crown Prosecution Service


As approved by His Honour Judge Ticehurst


On the 14th February 2002 a car of which the Defendant was the registered keeper was caught by a speed camera exceeding the speed limit for the road which was 30 mph.  The Police issued a  Notice of Intended Prosecution which incorporated a request for information that would lead to the identity of the driver as required by Section 172 of the Road Traffic Act 1988.

The form was returned to the police.  It identified the Defendant as having been the driver but was unsigned.  The Defendant was summoned on charges of (1) speeding and (2)  failing to comply with his obligation under Section 172 to identify the driver.  The Defendant pleaded not guilty to both charges and the case was tried by the Bath Magistrates Court on the 7th October 2002.


At the conclusion of the prosecution case Counsel for the Defendant submitted that there was no case to answer on the charge of speeding on the ground that there was no evidence that the Defendant had been the driver of the car.  The form was inadmissible as evidence since, as it was unsigned,  it did not amount to a "Statement in Writing" as provided for by Section 12 (1) of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988.  The prosecution accepted this but argued that the unsigned form should be regarded as a voluntary confession and was therefore admissible under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.  The Defendant argued that the form could not amount to a confession and that, in any event, it was not voluntary
The Justices found that the unsigned form did amount to a voluntary confession under PACE and was therefore admissible. After hearing evidence from the Defendant he was convicted on the charge of speeding but the charge under Section 172 was dismissed. 

The Defendant appealed against his conviction on the speeding charge.


The Appeal was allowed.    The unsigned statement could not amount to a confession if only because there was no evidence that it was the Defendant who made it.  That being the case, the Court did not have to go on to consider whether or not it was made voluntarily or otherwise complied with the requirements of PACE.

Given that it was accepted that the unsigned form did not amount to a "statement" in writing" pursuant to Section 12 of RTOA 1988 there was therefore no evidence that the Defendant had been driving the car at the appropriate time.

The Court accepted that there was a lacuna in the law in that although the registered keeper is under a duty to identify the driver he is not required to make a witness statement to that effect.    While this might be an unattractive finding it was not the Court's function to fill in or remedy defective legislation. This was the function of Parliament.

A solicitor involved in the case had the following to say:

For many months solicitors have been advising clients to return S172 forms admitting that they were the driver but unsigned.  I have had a 99% success rate so far.

The exception was John Pickford but this was remedied on appeal

After Mr. Pickford's car was caught by a speed camera, he returned the Section 172 notice admitting that he had been the driver but did not sign the form.  The police returned it to him pointing out that he had omitted to sign it.  He ignored the letter and was charged with (1) Speeding and (2) Failure to identify the driver under S 172.

At the hearing before the Magistrates a submission of no case to answer on the speeding charge was rejected on the ground that while the unsigned form was inadmissible in evidence because of Section 12 of Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988, it was admissible as a "voluntary confession" under PACE.  He was convicted on that charge but after giving evidence that he had returned the
form, albeit unsigned, the S172 failure charge was dismissed.

This is the first time, so far as I am aware, that the CPS had used the PACE argument

Mr. Pickford's  appeal to the Bristol Crown Court was upheld by Judge Ticehurst on the ground that as at the close of the prosecution case there was no evidence that it was Mr. Pickford who had returned the form it could not amount to a confession under PACE.  He did not have to rule on the "voluntary" point.

In giving judgment, HH Judge Ticehurst confirmed that there was a "lacuna" in the law in that there was no requirement to sign the S172 form (thus making it an admissible "statement", and however unpalatable that result might be it was  up to Parliament, not the Courts to remedy defective legislation.

NEW The information on this page was kindly provided by:

John Josephs, Solicitor

Turner Coulston, 15 Station Road, Kettering Northants  NN15 7HH.  

Tel: 01536-523434

Fax: 01536-310138



You can't measure safe driving in miles per hour

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Created 16/04/2003. Last update 24/04/2003
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