Receiving a NIP
You must be informed via a NIP before you can be charged for certain driving offences. These include:
- Dangerous driving
- Careless and inconsiderate driving
- Leaving a vehicle in a dangerous place
- Failing to comply with a traffic sign.
This can be communicated verbally to you at the scene of the alleged crime, or it can be posted or served to you. If it is issued to you after the incident, it must be done within 14 days. If you do not receive it within 14 days, any prosecution may be considered invalid. If you are being charged for more than one offence, you must be issued a separate NIP for each offence.
They can be communicated verbally to you at the scene of the alleged crime, or posted or 'served' to you.
There are some exceptions to the 14-day rule. For example, if the police could not have reasonably found the information to send the NIP to you within the 14-day period, it may still be possible to prosecute you.
This is also the case if you have moved without updating your registered address. Even if the NIP goes to your old address and you don’t receive it, this would probably be enough to prosecute you.
Also, there is some extra leeway if you didn’t own the car – for example, if it is a hired car, or you borrowed it. The NIP has to be sent to the registered ‘keeper’ of the vehicle, so even if you were not aware of the NIP, it could be valid if the owner received it.
You will also not receive a NIP if you were involved in an accident – in this case, your knowledge that there was an accident is considered notification that an offence was committed. If you were not aware you were involved in an accident (for example, if you bumped a parked car without noticing) a NIP would be required.
Returning the NIP
When you receive the NIP, you will be expected to specify who was driving the vehicle, then sign and return it within 28 days. It is advisable that you do so, unless you do not know who was driving the car at the time – for example, if you sold the car but it is still registered to you.
If someone else was driving, you must still complete the form and identify them – you can’t just give it to them to fill out.
The police do not need to prove that a crime was committed to send out a NIP, and previous challenges to the NIP have established that signing and returning the NIP does not force the driver to unfairly incriminate him or herself. This means that you should always return the NIP, even if you don’t think you have done anything wrong.
Failing to return the NIP is likely to be interpreted as failing to provide driver information, an offence which can result in 6 penalty points and a fine of up to £1,000. This could be a more severe penalty than if you were found guilty of the original offence.
If you only received a verbal NIP, the burden of proof is on the police and CPS to prove that it was issued – if the officer cannot prove that he or she gave you a NIP on the scene, they would not be able to prosecute you.
What if the NIP has errors on it?
Minor errors, such as spelling mistakes or grammatical errors, can be fixed – you could be sent a replacement NIP, or they could be fixed in court papers if the case goes to court. This is due to something called the Slip Rule.
However, the Slip Rule can’t be used to make major changes – for example, it couldn’t be used to change the charge on the NIP.
What happens next
Once the NIP has been returned and the driver identified, the police have 6 months to progress the case further, usually by issuing a fixed penalty notice or a court summons. Alternatively, they may decide to take no action.
Once the 6 months has passed, it will be too late for the police to bring any charges against you.