A JUDGE has praised a pensioner’s “tenacity” in doggedly seeking justice to overturn a wrongful motoring conviction.

Annette Dawson retained her good name after successfully appealing the conviction for driving without insurance, while also having the resulting six penalty points awarded at a magistrates’ court hearing, removed from her licence.

It was a mix up with a call handler at AA Insurance that resulted in Mrs Dawson, who had a previous clean licence, inadvertently driving her Suzuki Swift without cover for three months last year.

She was routinely stopped by police while driving to her home in St Helen Auckland, from Durham, in May last year.

Mrs Dawson was shocked to be given a producer form after being told a check on police national database revealed she was uninsured to drive.

But on checking her documents it emerged she was covered to drive a car she no longer owned, having sold the Renault Clio eight months before acquiring the Suzuki.

Although the AA updated her documents and posted them to her, they were unable to meet her request for an additional letter to show police to confirm she was insured, within the 14-day limit.

It led to her being charged with driving without insurance and she was convicted by magistrates, in November.

Her appeal hearing, at Durham Crown Court, was told the magistrates did not accept her defence that she had been mis-sold the insurance by the AA and she was sentenced to a six-month conditional discharge, her first ever conviction at the age of 67, with total costs of £105, and awarded six penalty points on her licence.

She formally complained to the AA, but as she was unhappy with the response, she referred her case to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).

On the Ombudsman’s intervention the AA reviewed the complaint and offered reimbursement of Mrs Dawson’s court costs, plus £1,000 compensation, “to reflect the seriousness of the situation Mrs Dawson found herself in.”

The AA also wrote to her to confirm it was in error, which Mrs Dawson was able to use in her appeal against the conviction.

As a result when the appeal came to court this week it was not opposed by the Crown and the conviction was overturned by Judge Christopher Prince sitting with two magistrates.

Judge Prince told Mrs Dawson: “The simple fact is there has been a miscarriage of justice in this case.

“You have shown an absolute tenacity in fighting this case and won, hands down.

“It’s sometimes said when people are acquitted that they leave the court without a stain on their character.

“The records now show there was never a case against you.

“You have effectively been your own barrister and you have fought your case and won, but I repeat, there was never any evidence by which an allegation could properly have been made against you.”

Mrs Dawson said despite ill-health through the saga, and with the help of cousin Graham Shevill and his partner, Susan Wilson, she was determined the truth would emerge.

“It became more and more clear to me to fight for what I believed to be right.

“I have fought every inch of the way to right this, which, after all was someone else’s mistake.”

Speaking after the hearing she said it appeared that it was only after the FOC’s intervention that the AA listened to the recording of her call accepting the insurance quote, in February last year, that the handler never referred to which vehicle it applied to during the conversation.

In response, the AA insurance team, “offered its sincere apologies to Mrs Dawson for the stress and inconvenience of having to challenge her conviction.”

But, a company spokesman said: “This came about because of errors made both by the AA and Mrs Dawson, when she took out her insurance on February 14, 2017.

“The agent she spoke to called up details of a quote that had been sought through a price comparison site, online, earlier the same day.

“We believe that the quote was obtained by her daughter who appears to have inadvertently keyed in the registration number of her mother’s old car.

“The agent who spoke to Mrs Dawson simply asked whether she was happy with the details already provided online and she agreed.

“However, Mrs Dawson explained that she doesn’t have a computer and the agent should have checked specific details such as the registration number and make and model of the vehicle to confirm they were correct, otherwise the error would immediately have been identified.

“At Mrs Dawson’s request the documents were posted to her, with a covering letter asking her to confirm that the details were correct.

“The letter clearly states at the top, in bold letters, the registration number of the insured vehicle.

“Had she checked the details she would quickly have realised that the AA had insured the wrong car.

“The AA takes pride in ensuring that customers receive a high-quality service.

“Feedback such as the complaint Mrs Dawson made allows us an opportunity to see where we have fallen short of the required standard and supports training, coaching and feedback to agents to ensure that other customers do not have the same experience in the future.

“We are delighted Mrs Dawson’s appeal has been upheld and she can once again drive with a deservedly clean licence.”

The spokesman added: “Meanwhile, the member relations team are writing to her once again to express our apologies, along with bouquet of flowers.”