The Risks of Swapping Penalty Points


The Law Of... taking the rap for somebody else

Dodging penalty points for a motoring offence, by either persuading somebody you know to take the fall, or paying someone to accept responsibility, poses a risk for both parties. Yet it's surprising how prevalent it has become.

The Law Of... taking the rap for somebody else

Patrick Campbell, a Motoring Offences Solicitor at Simpson Millar, examines the possible consequences facing those who avoid and those who accept.

The MP And The Penalty Points

You may well remember the very public downfall of former Cabinet member Chris Huhne, which closed the door on his political career. Around 3 years ago, the MP was convicted, along with his ex-wife, for perverting the course of justice and both were sentenced to an 8 month custodial sentence.

The case harked back to an incident in 2003, where Huhne had been caught speeding and asked his wife, Vicky Pryce, to accept his penalty points so he wouldn't lose his licence. In a somewhat bizarre twist, the matter only came to light 8 years after the event, following the break-up of their marriage, when Pryce took the story to a newspaper.

Perhaps Vicky Pryce's decision to publicise this indiscretion came from a view shared by a great many drivers in the UK who fail to see the risk when it comes to taking someone else's penalty points, thinking that so long as the fine gets paid, nobody gets hurt.

That may well be the case if the deception goes undiscovered, but if you are found out you could, like Huhne and his wife, find yourself on track for an unscheduled stay at Her Majesty's pleasure.

Penalty Point Swapping In The UK

According to FOI data obtained by, the extent to which this is happening throughout the UK is quite surprising. The telling figures within this data are as follows:

  • 1 in 20 drivers have accepted responsibility for someone else's penalty points
  • 1 in 16 drivers have asked a friend or relative to accept their penalty points
  • 1 in 20 motorists have paid somebody to take their penalty points
  • 1 in 10 drivers are unaware that it is illegal to take a friend or relative's penalty points

Furthermore, 25% of those who admitted to asking somebody else to take their penalty points did so because they faced a driving ban if convicted.

And it isn't only to family and friends that motorists are turning in a bid to remain on the road and point-free. There are individuals and organised gangs who, for a price, will fill out the required forms, inventing names and addresses, and therefore allowing a motorist to avoid a speeding conviction.

Either option may seem a tempting prospect, but the stakes can be high on both sides of the coin.

Perverting The Course Of Justice

In recent years, police have been coming down heavy on those who swap penalty points, as demonstrated in the high profile Chris Huhne case. Neither side in the equation is safe from prosecution and, although there is no specific offence to cover this activity, if caught out you will generally be charged with perverting the course of justice.

Perverting the course of justice is an extremely serious offence which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. It is unlikely you will face a lifetime behind bars if you have agreed to take the blame for your spouse's motoring offence, but the prospect of a custodial sentence is a very real possibility, along with a hefty fine and a criminal record.

Not Worth The Risk

With front facing speed cameras installed at various locations throughout the UK – which no only capture the license plate, but also the face of the driver – providing false details to the police is now even riskier.

Of course, the best way to avoid any of this is to drive within the legal limits at all times, but in the event you do find yourself facing points on your licence or accused of speeding when somebody else was driving, or charged with perverting the course of justice due to a genuine error, you should always seek professional and independent legal advice.

Patrick comments:

"The very public fall from grace of Chris Hulme, his wife Vicky Pryce, and Constance Briscoe, the lawyer who advised them, serves as a timely reminder of the importance of seeking legal advice from a specialist firm of solicitors."

"The fear of losing their licence often drives some clients to elaborate, but ultimately illegal, attempts to avoid disqualification."

"At Simpson Millar we would encourage clients to always seek legal advice should they receive or expect to receive a Notice of Intended Prosecution. There are options available to clients facing a potential disqualification and at Simpson Millar we can assist in this regard."

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