Aggravating and mitigating considerations
There are a number of factors that the court will have regard to when considering the appropriate penalty for the defendant following a conviction for motoring offences. There are aggravating factors that are considered, which increase the seriousness of the offence and mitigating factors that are presented to reduce the seriousness of the offence. Special reasons may also be considered by the courts.
Such factors will be considered where there is a highly culpable standard of driving at the time of the offence, for example: the consumption of drugs or alcohol, speeding excessively or driving competitively against another vehicle, disregarding warnings from fellow passengers, persistently bad or aggressive driving, driving whilst distracted or with a known medical condition which is likely to affect the defendant’s driving skills, driving whilst deprived of sleep or general drowsiness, or driving a poorly maintained vehicle.
Other aggravating factors that the court may consider are: driving without a licence, insurance or whilst disqualified, the use of any stolen vehicle or driving without consent. The court may also take into account any relevant past motoring convictions, particularly any instances of driving whilst excessively intoxicated or offences that involved bad driving.
Irresponsible behaviour by the defendant, whilst driving, is considered an aggravating factor. Such behaviour can include failing to stop, falsely blaming a victim for the cause of an accident or committing the driving offence whilst on bail.
As with any other type of offence, before sentencing, the defendant’s solicitor will provide the court with a plea in mitigation on the defendant’s behalf; where there is a discretion to disqualify the defendant from driving.
The solicitor will try to persuade the court not disqualify the defendant and impose the lowest amount of penalty points it is able to, or if the court does decides to disqualify the defendant, it should do so for the shortest period possible for the particular offence, taking account of all mitigating factors.
If the court has an obligatory duty to impose a disqualification on the defendant, the solicitor should raise mitigating factors to reduce the length of disqualification to the shortest period it feels able to and limit the level of any financial penalty.
Where there is a serious driving offence and the court is considering a custodial sentence, mitigating factors should be presented to persuade the court to deal with the matter other than by way of imprisonment, such as through a community sentence or a fine.
Examples of mitigating factors
‘Offence Mitigation’ relates to the offence itself and can include pleas such as: the defendant’s speed was not excessive, there was not much traffic on the road, the defendant was guilty only of a momentary lapse in concentration, there was only minor damage or injury caused and the defendant entered an early guilty plea.
For more information on:
- Mitigating Circumstances
- Special Reasons
- Powers available to the court if a special reason is found