The background on this is that I sold my first motor vehicle to a scrap yard to be disassembled for parts and/or sold. Unfortunately for whatever reason the V5 form (official document providing proof of registration of a motor vehicle) must have not found its way to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency and as such I have remained the registered keeper of the car even though the vehicle is no longer in my possession.

Approximately four months ago I received a letter from the DVLA informing me that said car I had sold was uninsured, and I must pay a £100 fine. Unfortunately I did not take the initial letter seriously and put it to the back of my mind. I then received a second letter pushing the urgency of the matter and threatening with court. At this point I rang the DVLA where a helpful woman told me the only way I can get around this was to write a letter to the DVLA explaining the situation. She also outlined a list of points to include. I promptly wrote said letter and had it sent by Royal Mail as second class postage.

This week I have received a third and final letter summoning me to my local magistrate's court. I have already sought out the scrap company and they have written an email confirming the car was purchased by them 3 months before the DVLA have the vehicle as being registered uninsured. I will also be writing to them again whilst sending in my "not guilty" plea. I have already suggested I will pay the fine in return for them updating their records but I have been told this is no longer an option.

I have a couple of questions regarding this whole ordeal:

  1. Will an email document be evidence enough? Should I go to the scrapyard in person and ask for a signed hand-written document basically outlining exactly what was said in the email or will this be a pointless endeavor?

  2. Exactly how should I conduct myself in the magistrates court? I have no idea how the proceedings go, even basic things such as how do I address the judge and basic guidance on how to conduct myself in the court room?

Any guidance will be appreciated, I may seek out a solicitor but as a young adult who has just moved into my first home the purse strings are tight at the minute and I am unsure if this step is even entirely necessary.

  • 3
    Most proceedings in Magistrates' Courts are public, so you can just turn up and ask to sit in the public gallery to familiarise yourself with the procedures. – Flup Sep 30 '15 at 20:53
  1. Dress respectably.
  2. Don't forget any documents (either those that support your explanation, or that you might have been instructed to bring). Printed Emails are fine unless you have been instructed otherwise.
  3. Arrive at the court on time and prepared to follow instructions and be respectful.

Beyond that nobody expects that someone entering a magisterial court for the first time will be familiar with customs or process. If you're sitting in the wrong place, not standing at the right time, or touching something you're not supposed to, then a court officer will tell you; just follow directions and it's no problem. Address officers as "sir" or "ma'am" unless they ask you to call them something else. If you have a question ask any officer.

If you are unsure of what is going on – what you are being charged with, what is at stake, what the purpose of the hearing is – then call the court ahead of time and ask.

It sounds like this is an administrative issue and the only thing at stake is a few hundred pounds in fines. If that is in fact the case then hiring a solicitor would be silly.

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  • The letters warn that fines+court fees could be in excess of £1150. – Trotski94 Oct 1 '15 at 7:57
  • @JamesTrotter Only a solicitor could address your prospects in your particular case. You might be able to assess on your own if this is just administrative -- e.g., it simply got filed in court before you got it straightened out with the DVLA, but ultimately you have the evidence necessary to absolve yourself of liability. If you can't tell or risk it, I don't know what solicitors run in your area, but consulting one might be prudent. – feetwet Oct 3 '15 at 22:40
  1. Responsibility for sending off the V5 when selling or scrapping your car is yours. From your question it's not 100% clear what the fine is for so this case may be different, but I have personally twice had fines for not sending off my V5 when selling/scrapping my car. These fines were not for being uninsured but for failing to notify the DVLA of the sale. In these cases, proof that I had sold or scrapped the car was of no use: it is your responsibility to send the V5, not the person who buys the car. (Relevant regulations can be seen here: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2002/2742/regulation/22/made)

  2. I have been to magistrate's court for a similar situation and from memory (it was a long time ago!) I spoke only to confirm my name and plea, so I would not worry too much about addressing the judge etc. I dressed in a full suit, tie etc. and was surprised that 90% of the people going through court that day (my case was delayed so I sat and watched a lot of people going in and out of court) were wearing everyday casual clothes (jeans & t-shirt etc.).

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  • 1
    Quite a few people being prosecuted in magistrates courts probably don't own a business suit and don't have much money to buy one. There's also a proportion that are arrested and taken to court by the police, so they would probably only have whatever clothes they happened to be wearing at the time of arrest. – bdsl Oct 28 '15 at 0:36

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