The most common howler I used to see was the belligerent or annoyed justification of speeding emanating from the dock: Magistrates are not impressed by protestations about how the police could more productively use their time. Neither are Magistrates interested in how a ban would inconvenience you. This is a mistake easily made so, if you do find yourself taking the walk of shame into the dock at the Magistrates’, read the widely available sentencing guidelines and address your points to the actual mitigation the Courts will take into account.

Legal aid is not available for speeding offences and representation at The Magistrates Court is an expense. Also the basics every advocate learns for mitigation are simple enough for you to apply yourself. Do not justify your speeding. Accept it was wrong. If you have a clean licence mention it. If banned would seriously impact on other people, not only say it, but provide evidence; if you have elderly parents who need you to get them to hospital then your GP needs to put this into writing. Your daughter has clarinet lessons you drive her to? No-one cares. Your employer needs you to be mobile? Definitely relevant, but make sure your employer gets a letter to the Magistrates explaining why and how your role is so important and the impact it would have on their business. You saying it, unsupported, carries almost no weight. So, before you put mitigation to the Magistrates try and listen with their ears. Are you making excuses or offering an understandable but contrite explanation about your stepping off the path of righteousness?

The basic rule of a plea in mitigation (where you throw yourself on the mercy of stout citizens of the lay magistracy) is to persuade them to go to the lowest reasonable end of the punishment spectrum they are able. Belligerence and self justification will launch them in exactly the opposite direction.

If you fear you will go to pieces in the dock, write out your points, have five copies of it and hand them to the Magistrates, their clerk and the prosecutor. You will be asked questions but you won’t have to deliver a speech. And look smart and as though you are taking the process seriously – if you want some mercy appear business like and as respectable as you can because it shows an element of deference to the magistrates.

Andrew Dalton

Bike Magazine – December 2019