"You’ll find plenty of motoring journalists who are real professors of this subject. They love to get under the bonnet and tinker with the oily bits or thoroughly go through testing procedures point by point. Honestly, I admire them "
The Day Of Reckoning
When the court usher said ‘I’d just like to make you aware you face disqualification today.’ I could feel the blood drain from my face like gin from an optic.
This wasn’t the time, or place to blurt ‘What?’ But I felt like it.
I’d been caught, by an unmarked motorcycle, while riding a brand new KTM Super Duke 990 at 80.01mph in a rural 50, that used to be a 60. If it had been clocked at 79.99mph I’d have been dealt with at the roadside, given three points and a £60 fine. As it was, I was in court, as the accused, for the first time in my life. I’d been thrown into a fight for my licence and livelihood and no legal representativ
e. But, fortunately, I’d prepared, even though I didn’t know the court were going to view my indiscretion so dimly. And I left with six points and a £380 fine. Not lightly, by any means, but better than expected. This is how…
1. Brain training
As soon as I was caught I rung up a very reputable rider training organisation, run and staffed by serving and former police officers. I made sure they gave written reports and signed up for the next available course. As I suspected my report was pretty good, not faultless, but good. During the day, in the company of a Class 1 motorcycle instructor on his day off, we rode at over 100mph in a 60, highlighting the complete hypocrisy of the system. Still, I had official paperwork showing that I wasn’t a numptie and it let me honestly say I took my skill levels and rider training seriously. The idea was to show I had half-a-brain.
2. Field trip
I visited the court I was due to appear in. Anyone can. If you get caught miles from home, make time to visit your local magistrates to get a feel for the place so you’re not a rabbit in the headlights come the big day. Once there you’ll see the mouth-breathing scumbags magistrates deal with on a daily basis. This gave me confidence. I assumed if I was a change from these pimple-brained knuckle-draggers I’d stand a chance.
3. Letter of the law
The employer’s letter. Everyone tries this, but you may as well give it a go. It helps if you rely on your licence to earn a living. It also helps if you use your licence to do benevolent community acts like taking old people to the doctors, kids to football or deliver shopping to the infirm. If you are an habitual speeder, it might be worth doing a few of these things just to get them in the bank to refer to later. And it’s a neighbourly thing to do anyway. It’ll give you a warm glow. No, really.
4. Mitigation station
Unless you’re absolutely 100 per cent sure you’ve been wrongly accused, when it comes to speeding it’s always better to ‘fess up and take the punishment. Don’t try the old ‘Are you sure the speed gun was calibrated?’ shtick. Fighting and losing is bad news. So plead guilty, but ask to appear in court to state your case. This is where you present your mitigation. It’s not making excuses, it’s saying, honestly, anything that makes the offence sound not quite so bad. Things like: your vehicle was recently serviced and tested; you’ve never been caught for speeding before; you regularly attend advanced driving courses; the weather and conditions were very good. Anything…
5. Clothes maketh the man
Only wear a suit if you look good in it. Don’t think any old cheap whistle will make a good impression, it won’t. Especially if you’re uncomfortable in it. I live in the sticks, so I dressed like a local in brown cords, brown brogues, smart shirt, tie and tweed jacket. I had a haircut too. The previous defendant was in a tracksuit top, baggy-arsed jeans and had self-dyed his hair.
6. Manners cost nothing
Facing a magistrate is not the time to think you’re James Dean. So kiss arse, apologise, be contrite, admit (however hard it might be) that you’re very, very sorry.
No begging though. Unless you’re facing the electric chair.
If you’re still not confident, a specialist lawyer will cost about £500. Good luck. You need a bit of that too…
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