Q: My mobile rang, so I answered it on speakerphone and put the phone on my lap. But I was spotted by a police officer who said that he would report me for not being in control of my car, although he wouldn't specifically raise the subject of mobile phone use, as this would assist with my insurance.
I said to the officer that I didn’t speak whilst holding my phone; I only answered it on speaker, then spoke while it was on my lap. I considered this did not differ from turning on my radio or adjusting my car’s controls – so where do I stand?
I didn’t speak whilst holding my phone; I only answered it on speaker, then spoke while it was on my lap
A: It very much depends on when you answered the call. If you answered it and then placed it in your lap to speak, it’s likely you would be convicted. This is on the basis that to be guilty of the offence, the prosecution have to show that you were holding and using the phone at the same time.
If however you answered the phone when it was in your lap, it will come down to an argument about what constitutes “holding”. This is a very grey area as there is no case law to define holding.
The other issue of course is that the officer is suggesting he will prosecute for driving whilst not in proper control, rather than a mobile phone offence. This is an “all encompassing” offence, as the officer won’t have to prove that you were speaking at the same time as holding your phone.
He will simply have to show that holding the phone placed you in such a position that you could not have proper control of your vehicle or have a full view of the road and traffic ahead. You’ll need to place doubt on his evidence to show that you were in proper control of the vehicle.
If you want assistance, the best way forward is for us to prepare your defence and make representations to the police. We will try to persuade them not to prosecute you for either offence.
FirstCar's legal expert is Emma Patterson, who runs Patterson Law, which specialises in motoring cases. If you've got a legal question, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll get Emma to answer it for you. If you need the advice or representation of a great motoring lawyer, you can contact Emma or one of her colleagues, through her website.