By Robert Whiston, 14 January 2009
Anyone who has been threatened with a fine or court action by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) will know about of this case. It forms the bedrock of their ability to fine the motorist for not having a licence disc (also known as a Road Fund Licence).
Whatever your mitigating pleas their retort is that the case of Caldwell v Hague applies and the DVLA are pleased to record that it has never been ‘successfully’ challenged.
The only problem is that obtaining a copy of the case is far from easy. Therefore, in the public interest this is a transcribed version of the case as supplied to me by the DVLA.
Caldwell v Hague (1914)
Kings Bench Division, Nov 19th 1914
(before Ridley, Avory amd Lush JJ).
Motor car – general identification mark – Expiry of period for which granted – Subsequent use of car – Whether notice of expiry regulates – Motor Car Act 1903 (s Edw 7 c26) s 2(4).
By sect 2 (4) of the Motor Car Act 1903 “if a car is used on a public highway without being registered . .. . the person driving the car will be guilty of an offence under this Act …. “
By sect 2(4)(b), “the council or any county or county borough, in which the business premises of any manufacturer of or dealer in motor cars are situated may, on payment of such annual fee, not exceeding £3, as the council requires, assign to that manufacturer or dealer a general identification mark which ay be used for any car on a trial by an intending purchaser, and a person shall not be liable to a penalty under this section while so using the car if the mark so assigned is fixed upon the car ….”
Held, that it is not a defence to a summons for using a motor car without being registered on a public highway after the expiry off the period for which a general identification mark has been granted and the fee has been paid to prove that no notice had been sent by the council that as the time had expired a further fee had become payable.
Case stated by the stipendiary magistrate for the City of Liverpool.
1. An information dated march 28th 1914 was preferred by the appellant, who is the head constable of said city, against the respondent, for that he did on the 22nd of March 1914, did drive a motor car. Then being used on certain public highways to wit, Rose Lane, in the said city without such car being registered, contrary to the statute in such case made and provided.
2. The said information was heard and determined by me sitting as a court of summary jurisdiction at the police courts Dale Street , in the said city n the 8th of April 1914, when I dismissed such information.
3. On the hearing of the said information the following facts were proved or admitted:
a) That the motor car bearing the manufacturers general identification mark KA 490, we driven by the respondent, for the purpose of trial by an intending purchaser in Rose Lane on March 22nd 1914 and that such car was the property of the Mossley Hill Motor Car Works (Eugene Myatt. Proprietor) in whose employ the respondent was.
b) that the said general identification mark was assigned by the council of the said city to Mossley Hill Motor Car Works (Eugene Myatt. Proprietor) on Feb 1st 1913
c) That the fee of £3 required by the said council had been paid upon the assignment of such number on the 1st of February 1913, that no further fee had since been paid or demanded, and there was no notification on such assignment that the said fee was an actual payment.
d) That the said firm, Mossley Hill Motor Car Works, were able and willing to pay and would at any time it any demand or notice had been made or given to them by the said council, have paid the further £3 which becomes due on the 1st day of Feb. 1914, I respect of the further user by the said firm of the said mark.
e) That no notice that the said assignment was determined or that the said firm had no further right to use the said mark after the 31st Jan 1914, had been given by the said council to the said firm.
4. It was contended on the part of the appellant that the assignment of the said gen id mark had ipso facto expired and become void on Jan 31st 1914, and that such assignment could only be renewed, or such mark be reassigned, upon payment by the said firm of a further fee of £3, and that in the absence of the payment of such fee the said firm had no right to use the said mark after Jan 1914 and that consequently the car was unregistered on March 22nd 1914.
5. I was of the opinion that this contention was not rightly founded in law ands I therefore dismissed the said information.
6. The question for the opinion of this honourable court is whether upon the above statement of facts I came to a correct determination in point to law, and, if not, what should be done in the premises.
Given under my had this day 2nd day of July 1914
(Signed) Stuart Deacon.
The Motor Car Act of 1903 sect 2 (4) provides: if a car is used on a public highway without being registered, or if the mark to be fixed in accordance with this Act is not so fixed or being so fixed it is in any way obscured or rendered or allowed to become not easily distinguishable, the person driving the car shall be guilty of an offence under this Act, unless, in the case of the prosecution for obscuring a mark or rendering it to become not so easily distinguishable, he proves that he has taken all steps reasonably practicable to prevents eh mal being obscured or rendered not easily distinguishable.
Provided that . . . . . b) the council of any county or county borough in which the business premises of any manufacturer of or dealer in motor cars are situated, may on payment of such annual fee, not exceeding £3 as the council may require, assign to that manufacturer or dealer a general identification mark which may be used for any car on trial after completion, or on trial by an intending purchaser and a person shall not be liable to a penalty under this section while so using the car, if the mark so assigned is fixed upon the car in the a manner required by the council in accordance with regulations of the local Gov’t Board made under this Act.
Swift KC, for the appellant – The magistrate ignored the fact that it was he duty of the person owing the fee to pay it, and the fact that the council had no power to grant a licence for more than twelve months. These licences are being continually granted and expire on different dates, and if this decision is right the council will have the trouble of continually searching the registrar and sending out notices. In the case of dog licences a notice is usually sent as those licences expire on the same day but there is no obligation to send a notice. The case ought to be remitted to the negative with a direction to convict.
No one appeared for the respondent.
Ridley J – in our opinion this decision of the stipendiary magistrate from Liverpool was wrong. He seems to have thought that there was no liability on the firm that owned the car, because they had not had a notice that the fee of £3 had become due. I can see no obligation on the part of the authorities to send. Any such notice. It is the duty of the owner of the car to ascertain when the annual fee for the renewal of the mark becomes due. The case must be reinstated to the magistrate with a direction to convict.
Judge Lush and Avory agreed [so it was a court of appeal ruling – Ed].