Original post : Feb 14, 2012

Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive

avoiding motoring convictionsThe Judge quoted from Sir Walter Scotts’ poem Marmion as he sentenced Francis Bridgeman, a London solicitor, to 12 months in prison for perverting the course of justice. Mr Bridgeman had attempted to avoid a drink drive conviction by creating an elaborate story to cover up the offence. He  insisted that he was not driving his vehicle when it came off the road, but that he had been kidnapped by armed men in the car park of Wadhurst railway station. They had driven him off in his own vehicle and then dumped him off before crashing the his Range Rover into a telegraph pole.

Police found the vehicle in a ditch and at his home later he was found to be over the drink drive limit. When his DNA was found on the airbag the story began to unravel, leading to his conviction, imprisonment and what will inevitable be a ruined career.

Whilst exhibiting an unusual degree of fabrication, Mr Bridgeman has paid a high price for what far too many people see as a way out of driving offences: get someone else to take the points.

We learned earlier this month that the Crown Prosecution Service will prosecute a charge of perverting the course of justice against Chris Huhne and his former wife Vicky Pryce. According to reports they will appear in court for the first time on the 16 February. Mr Huhne intends to defend the prosecution proclaiming his innocence. It is not known how Ms Pryce will plead.

Whilst on this occasion the charge has been brought against two high profile individuals, the Courts have dealt with a number of such cases over recent years, and they have represented an increasing determination by the police to properly identify drivers who have committed road traffic offences. A charge of perverting the course of justice is dealt with only in the Crown Court and on conviction carries a prison sentence. The consequences are far more serious than a licence endorsement or even a disqualification, and yet it happens more often than people realise. It seems so easy to have a friend or family member “take the points”, but once you have started down that route it is very difficult to go back.

In September last year a Bournemouth man was sentenced to eight weeks in prison for perverting the course of justice after claiming he was not the driver of a vehicle that was caught speeding on four separate occasions.

And in January this year two men behind a nationwide scam to help drivers escape motoring convictions were jailed at Manchester Crown Court. They helped more than 700 motorists avoid penalty points for speeding and other driving offences by using the notice of intended prosecution procedure to delay identifying the driver until it was too late to prosecute in return for up to £400 a go. The drivers who were helped  also now face investigation and prosecution. 

Offences that would have been dealt with by way of a small fine and points, or the opportunity to undertake a half-day Driver Awareness Course, have resulted in prison sentences and all the consequences that flow from that.  

Lying to cover up a motoring offence might look a simple way out but it isn't.

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