Supervising a learner driver and permit no insurance offence

24 March 2021

Not reviewed after the date of publication

Question: 

Regarding 'permit no insurance' offence, I have a case whereby a father and son are in a vehicle. The son is learning to drive and the father is 'supervising' him - neither own the vehicle it belongs to someone else.

The son has been prosecuted as the driver for use no insurance offence. The father did not check to confirm insurance was in place, has the father committed the permit no insurance offence? 

Answer:

This will very much depend on the circumstances. The offence under section 143 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 arises if a person 'uses' a motor vehicle on a road or 'causes' or 'permits' any other person to use it, on a road, while uninsured. Subject to the special defence for employees in subsection (3), it was expressly held in Tapsell v Maslen (1967) Crim LR 53, that section 143 imposes an absolute prohibition on using an uninsured vehicle or causing or permitting it to be used on a road. A conviction must follow if it is shown that a defendant used it or caused or permitted its use, irrespective of whether he knew or not that the vehicle was uninsured (unless the special defence under s.143(3) of the 1988 Act applies).

However, a person does not 'permit' a vehicle to be used uninsured if he allows another to use it only on the express condition that that person will first insure it. In Newbury v Davis (1974) RTR 367, when the borrower used the vehicle without having insured it, it was held that as he was using it without having insured the vehicle as required by the owner, he was using it without the owner’s permission and thus the owner could not be convicted of 'permitting'.

A person supervising a learner driver does not necessarily permit the driving. Where the learner was also the owner of the vehicle, the supervisor was not in a position to forbid the use of the vehicle to the owner (Thompson v Lodwick (1983) RTR 76). A conviction for permitting no insurance was quashed. Therefore, in our opinion, the key issue in relation to whether the boy's father has committed the 'permitting' offence, is whether the father was in a position to forbid his son from using the vehicle.

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