This briefing covers some of the specific legal issues for drivers of vehicles during actions.
Be aware that immediately before an action there can be a lot of emotions and adrenaline sloshing around, even for support people. Think in advance about how you might cope with this: relaxation/concentration techniques, etc. Make sure to get yourself emotionally settled before setting off and be aware of, and plan for, the need to get adequate rest.
As the driver of a vehicle on a public road:
You are responsible for making sure everyone in the vehicle wears seatbelts (where they are fitted).
It is an offence to use a mobile phone while driving (even if stopped at traffic lights, etc.) unless you have a completely hands-free setup).
You are required to give the police your name, address and date of birth if asked (this only applies to the driver, passengers do not have to provide any information.
You are required to produce on demand:
Insurance certificate for the vehicles
MOT certificate (if the vehicle is over three years old)
If you don’t have these with you, you may nominate a police station (anywhere in the UK) to take them to. You will be given a form which you must take, with all the documents, to the nominated police station within seven days.
There is no general power to search a vehicle although there are a range of powers which allow them to do so in certain circumstances. If the police want to search the vehicle ask them what power they are acting under and make a note of it. Be clear about whether you are giving them permission or are just complying with a (claimed) requirement.
The registered owner of a vehicle is required to tell the police who was driving it at a certain time. Otherwise they may be liable themselves. If they tell the police who was driving then the driver rather than the owner would usually be liable.
Transporting People to Actions
Note that the police have powers to direct road traffic and failing to comply with such a direction can be an offence. Make sure the group thinks in advance about what they will do if the police prevent you from stopping where you want to. Also make clear in advance what risks you as the driver are prepared to run and what you’re not ? and that you expect the group to respect that even in the heat of the moment.
If you are arrested as part of a group doing an action then the vehicle will be towed and you will have to pay a release fee (which can be over £150) to get it back.
If they do arrest you then, depending on the circumstances, it could be for stopping where you shouldn’t or some other road traffic offence or it could be for aiding and abetting the action itself.