A number of British tourists could face sanctions for motoring offences committed in other European countries by virtue of the EU-implemented Cross Border Enforcement Directive 2015/413, which came in to effect nationally on 6 May 2017 (“Directive”). This issue was last touched upon by our team in their article published on 28 October 2015, which confirmed that the UK had a later transposition deadline than the majority of the other EU Member States.
The Directive is aimed at locating people who commit traffic offences in vehicles that are registered in a different EU Member State to where the offence was committed. The Directive will allow police forces and other enforcement authorities from EU countries to access vehicle ownership records held by other countries, which can then be used to prosecute offences.
Eight offences are specifically provided for within the Directive – drink-driving, drug-driving, speeding, failing to comply with traffic signals, forbidden lane contraventions, using a mobile phone whilst driving, not wearing a seatbelt and not wearing a helmet. In theory if you commit one of these offences in an EU Member State then it will be easier to track down the perpetrator and prosecute them accordingly.
Once foreign authorities have obtained the details of the registered owner of the vehicle they will write to them setting out the specific nature of the alleged offence and the level of fine to be paid. There is an option for the owner of the vehicle to contest that it was not them driving at the relevant time. However, motorists who fail to pay the fine are likely face further implications if they subsequently return to the country in which the offence was committed.
In a number of EU countries it is the vehicle owner that is ultimately liable for such sanctions, even if they were not the driver at the time of the offence. Conversely, in the UK the responsibility, and liability, rests with the driver at the time of the alleged offence rather than the owner.
Naturally, national enforcement authorities will encounter difficulties in identifying drivers from other Member States, whilst other EU countries are less likely to endure such difficulties as they pursue British owners of vehicles for motoring offences committed in their respective country.
The RAC have commented that:
“we are fearful differences in Member State laws around whether the driver or the registered keeper of a vehicle is responsible following an offence will mean some EU drivers committing certain offences in the UK will wrongly escape punishment. In this sense, the cross border enforcement Directive is a bit of a misnomer as it doesn’t create a level cross-border enforcement playing field.”
Despite such concerns, the cross border regime has already been applied in 23 of the 28 EU Member States since November 2016. The EU Commissioner for Transport, Violeta Bulc said:
“thanks to the new automatic exchange of information, offenders are less likely to get away with dangerous behaviour”.
Only Portugal and Finland are now not signed up to the Directive.
The UK Department of Transport commented that “while the UK is still a member of the EU, we are obliged to bring in rules on cross-border enforcement. Once we have left the EU, our Parliament will have the power to amend the law”. This perhaps indicates there may well be amendments to the national operation of the current regime after Brexit.
If you require any advice on assistance relating to cross-border enforcement of motoring laws then please do not hesitate to contact our Traffic Lawyers team