Sunderland man caught driving without insurance accused of using 'smoke and mirrors exercise'

A Wearside man has been convicted of driving without valid insurance after being accused in court of running a “smoke and mirrors” exercise – but is to appeal.

Saturday, 28th December 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Thursday, 2nd January 2020, 11:17 am
South Tyneside Magistrates' Court.
South Tyneside Magistrates' Court.

Prosecutor Brian Payne levelled the claim against Robert Ball, 63, of Trinity Street, Southwick, when he was tried after denying the offence.

Unemployed Ball told South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court he had handed the 56-plate Mini to his son, who had his own vehicle business, only to fix its broken gearbox.

He insisted he did not know his son had sold the car behind his back two months before he was stopped driving a Renault Megane in High Lane, Newbottle, on December 28 last year.

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It led police to accuse him of not having a valid being insurance policy and Ball to deny the crime and seek trial.

But after a near two-and-a-half-hour hearing, they found him guilty, ordering him to pay £620 court costs and endorsing his driving licence with six penalty points, taking his tally to nine.

Immediately after conviction, Jason Smith, defending Ball, said he intended to appeal the conviction and asked magistrates to delay activating the points and fine, which they refused.

The court heard Ball had had fully comprehensive insurance with Privilege Insurance, part of the Direct Line Group, which was active and allowed him to drive other cars third party.

However, the case hinged on the legality of driving a third party vehicle – the Renault Megane – when he no longer owned the Mini upon which the validity of the full insurance policy rested.

After deliberation, magistrates decided he had driven illegally – and imposed their sentence despite Mr Smith’s suspension plea.

During the hearing, Mr Payne said: “He is running a smoke and mirrors exercise here. The problem with it is that knowledge is not the same as being insured. It’s a not a belief that somebody is insured, it’s whether they were insured.”

Giving evidence, Ball told the court: “I honestly believed I had the Mini. I honestly believed that when I got stopped I was insured. It’s not a scam. I wasn’t trying to pull a fast one.”

Asked by Mr Payne why he had not reported the alleged illegal sale of the car to police, Ball said: “I’m not going to report my son for a crime.”

Mr Smith said: “The incontrovertible fact is that the insurance policy was valid on the 28th of December. It’s never been invalidated, voided or claimed upon. It’s active and valid. Full stop.”

Ball must also pay an £85 fine and a £30 victim surcharge.