Notice of Intended Prosecution - NIP
A Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP), also known as a Section 1 warning, is a warning issued under Section 1 of the Road Traffic (Offenders) Act 1988. The NIP is simply what the name suggests. It is a warning that a driver may be prosecuted for a certain offence/offences and may be in oral or written form. Written warnings received by drivers caught speeding by speed cameras often cause a high degree of alarm. This is because the letter usually also warns the driver that they may be prosecuted for dangerous driving or careless driving. In the vast majority of cases, such a prosecution will not happen. The letter is simply a base-covering style letter sent out irrespective of the seriousness of the alleged offence.
To which offences does it apply?
A Section 1 warning is not required for every alleged road traffic offence. The offences to which it applies are found in Schedule 1 of the Road Traffic (Offenders) Act 1988. The most common offences for which a warning is required are:
- careless driving (Road Traffic Act 1988, section 3)
- dangerous driving (Road Traffic Act 1988, section 2)
- speeding (various sections of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984)
- failing to comply with traffic signs (Road Traffic Act 1988, section 36)
Some common offences which do not require a NIP include:
- drink driving (Road Traffic Act 1988, section 5)
- failure to provide a sample (Road Traffic Act 1988, section 7)
- causing death by dangerous or careless driving (Road Traffic Act 1988, sections 1 and 2B)
- using a vehicle in a dangerous condition (Road Traffic Act 1988, section 40A)
- driving while using a mobile phone (Road Traffic Act 1988, section 41D)
What form does it take?
A Section 1 warning takes two main forms, oral or written and is usually determined by whether the driver has been stopped by the police or not.
If the police have stopped a driver at the roadside and charged him/her with one of the above offences it is likely that the driver will receive a verbal Section 1 warning. The police may not use the words 'speeding', 'careless driving' or 'dangerous driving'. Instead, they may state that they are warning the driver of a possible prosecution e.g. for a contravention of section 2 or section 3 of the Road Traffic Act 1988.
It is also common for the police to charge a driver with one offence and in addition, warn that he/she may be prosecuted for another. For example, the police may issue a charge for speeding but warn of potential prosecution for careless or dangerous driving. It should also be noted that a Section 1 warning does not require a particular form of words. If, for example, the police charge a driver with dangerous driving, the charge also constitutes the Section 1 warning. The police will often issue a charge and a Section 1 warning but there is no requirement to do both as one will suffice.
A written Notice of Intended Prosecution will usually be issued in one of two circumstances.
The first, and most common, is where a motorist has been captured by a speed camera. In these circumstances, a written NIP, issued by a police authority, will be sent to the registered keeper outlining the circumstances of the alleged offence. Within the same letter will be a requirement to identify the driver.
The second is where the police have received a report from a member of the public of a relevant offence or the police have witnessed an incident but not warned the driver at the time. In such cases, a written warning must, subject to certain exceptions, be issued within 14 days.
A written NIP must include the nature of the alleged offence and the date and place it was alleged to have been committed.
The time limits are the same irrespective of the offence.
An oral warning can only be issued at the time of the offence. 'Time of the offence' is not defined by statute and whilst a degree of latitude will be allowed, the law makes it clear that such warnings must be issued soon after the alleged offence has been committed e.g. 24 hours after the offence would be too late.
The time limit for a written warning is 14 days from the date of the offence. It is important to note, however, that it is only the registered keeper that is required to receive such a warning within 14 days. For example, if a vehicle is leased, the leasing company (lessor) will be the registered keeper and it is they who must receive the warning within 14 days. The lessor should then identify the driver (lessee) and so it is common, therefore, for the driver to receive his own warning after the 14 days has elapsed, but this does not invalidate the warning. If, however, the driver is the registered keeper and receives a written Section 1 warning after 14 days have elapsed then the prosecution against the driver may be fatally flawed.
Finally, it is very important to note that a late Notice of Intended Prosecution in no way removes the legal obligation upon a person to identify the driver of a vehicle when required to do so under Section 172 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. If a driver fails to respond to such a requirement then he can still be charged with a contravention of Section 172 which carries a punishment of 6 penalty points.
What if the warning is issued late?
If the Section 1 warning is issued late, or not issued at all, then this may be a defence against the charge. There are certain exceptions, the most common of which is that no warning is required if there has been an accident. See the 'learn more' section for more details. These rules apply irrespective of the alleged offence.
For further information on the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988, please use the link below.