Once evidence exists indicating that a particular vehicle may have been involved in a collision, the police must make enquiries to follow up the information. In most cases this will initially be by contacting the registered keeper of the vehicle by letter and requesting details of the driver at the time. The law requires the recipient of the notice to reply to such requests for information; it is an offence to fail to respond which is liable to a significant penalty.
Making these requests is part of the investigation process, and does not mean that a prosecution will inevitably follow. The response given supports the police investigation in deciding whether any further action may be required. It may also assist a person involved in a collision in recovering their losses. The police investigation is to establish the facts, and issuing one of these notices does not mean that the case has been pre-judged, but it is an essential part of the investigative process.
At the point the request for information is made it is not possible to release more details than those provided in the original notice. To do so will prejudice the investigation.
How to respond to a request
The identity of the driver must be provided in writing, with the signature of the person to whom the request was made included in the response.
If the person who the notice was addressed to was the driver at the time and wishes to provide extra information, there is space on the rear of the form to enable this to be done.
If the recipient wishes to nominate another person, this must be done by completing the appropriate section of the form and returning it to the police. The police team will then contact the nominated person directly.
If the car was being driven by someone else, the notice must not be given to that person to deal with or responded to on their behalf, even if they are related to the person the notice was originally sent to.
If the vehicle was elsewhere, has been sold, or some other similar circumstances apply, the recipient should respond in writing to that effect.
The required information must be provided in writing, and will not be accepted by telephone.
What happens next
If the police decide that further enquiries are needed after this initial stage of the investigation, it may be at this point that the people involved can be provided with more information.
It may also be the case that once the initial enquiries have been made that there is no need for the police to take further action, apart from exchanging details on some occasions to comply with the law. Anybody who has received a request for information will be advised in writing once this decision has been reached.
In almost all cases the information provided to the police is given in good faith. The police act on it in that spirit, and unfortunately there may be times when the details of the wrong vehicle have been mistakenly taken. It could be that a registration number has been incorrectly recorded, or (unusually) a vehicle is being used with the incorrect registration number. It is understood that receipt of one of a section 172 notices can cause anxiety. Unfortunately the police must use the formal process complying with Section 172 in all investigations, as not doing so would undermine any cases where an offence has been committed, and which do proceed to court.