This is a very common prosecution before the courts. That is because it is an "absolute offence". This means that if you drive a vehicle on the road thinking in all honesty that you have paid your premium and are legal to drive, if for example, your bank did not pay the monthly direct debit on your policy through no fault of your own, you are still guilty of the offence. Therefore the onus of proof is on the driver to ensure that a policy was in place. Even if your insurer fails to notify you that your policy has lapsed, the onus is on you to ensure you are insured.
The same scenario would exist if you leant your car to someone to drive after they assured you they had insurance to drive your car. If they have not then you are guilty of permitting your vehicle to be used by an uninsured driver and are liable to penalty points and a fine.
The penalties involved range from 6-8 penalty points or a period of disqualification and a fine, the level of which depends upon the individual's circumstances. Some Police forces issue fixed penalty notices similar to those for speeding offences. These involve 6 penalty points and a £200 fine. The period of disqualification will depend upon the circumstances of the offence including whether or not it is your first offence.
Not only are there consequences in court for this offence, your car may be seized at the roadside by the Police as they can now check with insurance companies whilst they are talking to people they have pulled over.
The consequences of a conviction for this offence can be far reaching and good representation and mitigation can make all the difference.