Plea of Mitigation
What is mitigation?
If you plead guilty, you have the option to present mitigation to minimise the penalty, and subject to your personal circumstances, mitigation can:
- Reduce the amount of the fine / increase the length of time allowed to pay;
- Reduce penalty points to the lower end of the scale (if the penalty is not fixed);
- Satisfy the Magistrates there is no need for a Court appearance;
- If you are at risk of an instant ban, persuade the Court to impose points instead;
- If more than one offence is alleged, convince the Magistrates to impose points for one charge only;
Your written submission will be considered by the Magistrate before any penalty is imposed. This is your opportunity to address all issues relating to the offence, the implications, circumstances etc.
Should I not simply just tick the box and say sorry?
You can proceed on that basis if you wish, but you are not using the process to your advantage. The absence of detailed mitigation, will probably result in a more severe penalty.
Do I have mitigation?
Yes. Regardless of how the incident occurred, or your particular circumstances, there will always be something that can be presented by way of mitigation. It is simply ensuring that the correct information is identified and presented to the Court.
Every case is unique, as is everybody's mitigation. Do not assume that what worked for a friend 5 years ago, will work for you.
Will the Court read my mitigation?
The Court will consider any submission presented but will pay far greater attention and importance to mitigation that has been carefully prepared and correctly presented. The Magistrate has very limited time to review a case and will not waste that time dealing with rants from frustrated motorists!
Will I get a better result if I attend Court and read out my plea?
No. In most cases, the Magistrates do not want to see you and prefer to deal with matters in writing. This is the most efficient use of Court time, so you will get no benefit at all by asking for a personal attendance.
Is there any difference between pleading online and by letter?
Whilst, theoretically, any mitigation, whether presented online or by letter will be considered by the Court, in many circumstances, a letter may be more beneficial. The amount of mitigation that can be presented via the online service is limited and therefore, if there is a detailed explanation to present, a letter may serve a better purpose than an online plea. You cannot refer to other documents online either, so in many cases a letter is still the best approach.
What needs to be included?
Deciding on the correct mitigation can be problematic. You need to accept the offence and explain how / why it occurred, but without making it worse than it seems / inferring it is of no consequence. You also need to clarify your circumstances, the effect of any potential punishment, but without telling the Magistrates how to do their job! If you need guidance, Motor Lawyers can go though all the issues and clarify what will help, what won't and how to present your mitigation.
What are the pitfalls?
Bear in mind that you need to use the process to your advantage, ideally to conclude matters promptly and on the best terms.
Don't confuse mitigation with a defence
Don't get caught out!
A common error is to confuse mitigation with a potential defence. It is not designed to allow you to defend the allegation, and if the mitigation presented is deemed to be a defence, the Court will proceed on the basis that it is a "not guilty" plea.
Be conscious of how the Court will interpret your submission. What you believe may be mitigation, the Court may view as aggravating circumstances, which could result in a more serious penalty. You need to be very careful about what information you supply / do not supply and the way in which it is presented.
Do not use your reply to deal with issues that are not directly related to you / your case.
Remember that you could be asked to attend Court in person, so don't present anything that you cannot back up if forced to do so. Make sure that your mitigation does not cause you subsequent problems if it is challenged at any stage.
What if I face a totting up ban?
If you know that you face a totting up ban (i.e. the penalty for the offence under review will take you to a total of 12+ penalty points), the best approach is to be open with the Court and request a date for a personal attendance. Meanwhile, seek advice as to how to prepare an exceptional hardship case so you have the best chance of avoiding a ban when you do have to attend Court.
What if I rejected a Fixed Penalty Notice?
If you were given a conditional offer but, for whatever reason, failed to accept in time, that opportunity has gone and the penalty is now at the discretion of the Court. In some circumstances, it may be possible with detailed mitigation, to persuade the Court to impose a similar punishment to the original Fixed Penalty Notice, however, to achieve this it makes sense to obtain advice / guidance before you reply.
Should I get help preparing mitigation?
Yes. If you have never presented a submission to the Court, it can be very difficult to establish what information is relevant and what might count against you. It is important that the submission you present is relevant, succinct and pertinent. This is your only opportunity to persuade the Magistrates to exercise leniency. Bear in mind that there is no guarantee that the Magistrates will deal with the case in writing. They have the option to demand a personal attendance so you need to ensure that the mitigation presented in writing does not cause further problems if you are subsequently ordered to attend in person. You cannot undo mitigation already entered and guidance now, will give you a greater prospect of resolving the case at the earliest opportunity on the best terms.