DPP v Barreto [2019] EWHC

The appellant, Ramsey Barreto, was driving whilst using his hand-held mobile phone to film a road traffic accident. The police prosecutor charged him with using a hand-held mobile phone whilst driving and he was convicted after trial in the Magistrates' Court.

He appealed to the Crown Court where his appeal was allowed. The Director of Public Prosecutions then appealed to the High Court.

The case was heard by Lady Justice Thirlwall and Mr Justice Goss on 9th April 2019. Judgement was reserved to a later date.

Mitigation

Sentencing Council Consultation - February 2019

The Sentencing Council is consulting on Expanded Explanations in the Sentencing Guidelines. Part of the consultation refers to mitigating factors.

As with the aggravating factors the numbering of these factors is purely for ease of reference and is not an indicator of relative importance. The numbering will not appear in guidelines.

We are proposing to provide expanded explanations for the following mitigating factors

M1. No previous convictions or no relevant/recent convictions

First time offenders usually represent a lower risk of re-offending. Re-offending rates for first offenders are significantly lower than rates for repeat offenders. In addition, first offenders are normally regarded as less blameworthy than offenders who have committed the same crime several times already. For these reasons first offenders receive a mitigated sentence.

  • Where there are previous offences but these are old and /or are for offending of a different nature, the sentence will normally be reduced to reflect that the new offence is not part of a pattern of offending and there is therefore a lower likelihood of reoffending.

  • When assessing whether a previous conviction is ‘recent’ the court should consider the time gap since the previous conviction and the reason for it.

  • Previous convictions are likely to be ‘relevant’ when they share characteristics with the current offence (examples of such characteristics include, but are not limited to: dishonesty, violence, abuse of position or trust, use or possession of weapons, disobedience of court orders). In general the more serious the previous offending the longer it will retain relevance.

M2. Good character and/or exemplary conduct

This factor may apply whether or not the offender has previous convictions. Evidence that an offender has demonstrated positive good character through, for example, charitable works may reduce the sentence.

However, this factor is less likely to be relevant where the offending is very serious. Where an offender has used their good character or status to facilitate or conceal the offending it could be treated as an aggravating factor.

M3. Remorse

The court will need to be satisfied that the offender is genuinely remorseful for the offending behaviour in order to reduce the sentence (separate from any guilty plea reduction at step four). Lack of remorse should never be treated as an aggravating factor.

M4. Self-reporting

Where an offender has self-reported to the authorities, particularly in circumstances where the offence may otherwise have gone undetected, this should reduce the sentence (separate from any guilty plea reduction at step four).

M5. Cooperation with the investigation/ early admissions

Assisting or cooperating with the investigation and /or making pre-court admissions may ease the effect on victims and witnesses and save valuable police time justifying a reduction in sentence (separate from any guilty plea reduction at step four).

M6. Little or no planning

Where an offender has committed the offence with little or no prior thought, this is likely to indicate a lower level of culpability and therefore justify a reduction in sentence.

However, impulsive acts of unprovoked violence or other types of offending may indicate a propensity to behave in a manner that would not normally justify a reduction in sentence.

M7. The offender was in a lesser or subordinate role if acting with others / performed limited role under direction

Whereas acting as part of a group may make an offence more serious, if the offender’s role was minor this may indicate lower culpability and justify a reduction in sentence.

M8. Involved through coercion, intimidation or exploitation

Where this applies it will reduce the culpability of the offender.

  • This factor may be of particular relevance where the offender has been the victim of domestic abuse, trafficking or modern slavery, but may also apply in other contexts.

  • Courts should be alert to factors that suggest that an offender may have been the subject of coercion, intimidation or exploitation which the offender may find difficult to articulate, and where appropriate ask for this to be addressed in a PSR.

  • This factor may indicate that the offender is vulnerable and would find it more difficult to cope with custody or to complete a community order.

M9. Limited awareness or understanding of the offence

The factor may apply to reduce the culpability of an offender

  • acting alone who has not appreciated the seriousness of the offence or

  • where an offender is acting with others and does not appreciate the extent of the

    overall offending.
    If the offender had genuinely failed to understand or appreciate the seriousness of the offence, the sentence may be reduced from that which would have applied if the offender had understood the full extent of the offence and the likely harm that would be caused.

    Where an offender lacks capacity to understand the full extent of the offending see the guidance under ‘Mental disorder or learning disability’ below.

M10. Little or no financial gain

Where an offence (which is not one which by its nature is an acquisitive offence) is committed in a context where financial gain could arise, the culpability of the offender may be reduced where it can be shown that the offender did not seek to gain financially from the conduct and did not in fact do so.

M11. Delay since apprehension

Where there has been an unreasonable delay in proceedings since apprehension which is not the fault of the offender, and which has had a detrimental effect on the offender, the court may take this into account by reducing the sentence.

Note: No fault should attach to an offender for not admitting an offence and/or putting the prosecution to proof of its case.

M12. Activity originally legitimate

Where the offending arose from an activity which was originally legitimate, but became unlawful (for example because of a change in the offender’s circumstances or a change in regulations), this may indicate lower culpability and thereby a reduction in sentence.

This factor will not apply where the offender has used a legitimate activity to mask a criminal activity.

M13. Age and/or lack of maturity

Age and/or lack of maturity can affect:

  • the offender’s responsibility for the offence and

  • the effect of the sentence on the offender.

    Either or both of these considerations may justify a reduction in the sentence.

    The emotional and developmental age of an offender is of at least equal importance to their chronological age (if not greater).

    In particular young adults (typically aged 18-25) are still developing neurologically and consequently may be less able to:

  • evaluate the consequences of their actions

  • limit impulsivity

  • limit risk taking

    Young adults are likely to be susceptible to peer pressure and are more likely to take risks or behave impulsively when in company with their peers.

    Environment plays a role in neurological development and factors such as childhood adversity including deprivation and/or abuse will affect development.

An immature offender may find it particularly difficult to cope with custody and therefore may be more susceptible to self-harm in custody.

An immature offender may find it particularly difficult to cope with the requirements of a community order without appropriate support.

There is a greater capacity for change in immature offenders and they may be receptive to opportunities to address their offending behaviour and change their conduct.

Where the offender is a care leaver the court should enquire as to any effect a sentence may have on the offender’s ability to make use of support from the local authority. (Young adult care leavers are entitled to time limited support. Leaving care services may change at the age of 21 and cease at the age of 25, unless the young adult is in education at that point). See also the Sentencing Children and Young People Guideline (paragraphs 1.16 and 1.17).

Where an offender has turned 18 between the commission of the offence and conviction the court should take as its starting point the sentence likely to have been imposed on the date at which the offence was committed, but taking into account the purposes of sentencing adult offenders. See also the Sentencing Children and Young People Guideline (paragraphs 6.1 to 6.3).

When considering a custodial or community sentence for a young adult the National Probation Service should address these issues in a PSR.

M14. Sole or primary carer for dependent relatives

This factor is particularly relevant where an offender is on the cusp of custody or where the suitability of a community order is being considered. For offenders on the cusp of custody, imprisonment should not be imposed where there would be an impact on dependants which would make a custodial sentence disproportionate to achieving the aims of sentencing. Where custody is unavoidable consideration of the impact on dependants may be relevant to the length of the sentence imposed. For more serious offences where a substantial period of custody is appropriate, this factor will carry less weight.

In addition when sentencing an offender who is pregnant relevant considerations may include:

  • any effect of the sentence on the health of the offender and

  • any effect of the sentence on the unborn child

    In such situations the court should ask the Probation Service to address these issues in a PSR.

M15. Physical disability or serious medical conditions requiring urgent, intensive or long- term treatment

The court can take account of physical disability or a serious medical condition by way of mitigation as a reason for reducing the length of the sentence, either on the ground of the greater impact which imprisonment will have on the offender, or as a matter of generally expressed mercy in the individual circumstances of the case.

  • However, such a condition, even when it is difficult to treat in prison, will not automatically entitle the offender to a lesser sentence than would otherwise be appropriate.

  • There will always be a need to balance issues personal to an offender against the gravity of the offending (including the harm done to victims), and the public interest in imposing appropriate punishment for serious offending;

  • A terminal prognosis is not in itself a reason to reduce the sentence even further. The court must impose a sentence that properly meets the aims of sentencing even if it will carry the clear prospect that the offender will die in custody. The prospect of death in the near future will be a matter considered by the prison authorities and the Secretary of State under the early release on compassionate grounds procedure (ERCG).

  • But, an offender’s knowledge that he will likely face the prospect of death in prison, subject only to the ERCG provisions, is a factor that can be considered by the sentencing Judge when determining the sentence that it would be just to impose.

M16. Mental disorder or learning disability

Mental disorders and learning disabilities are different things, although an individual may suffer from both. A learning disability is a permanent condition developing in childhood, whereas mental illness (or a mental health problem) can develop at any time, and is not necessarily permanent; people can get better and resolve mental health problems with help and treatment.

In the context of sentencing a broad interpretation of the terms ‘mental disorder’ and learning disabilities’ should be adopted to include:

  • Offenders with an intellectual impairment (low IQ);

  • Offenders with a cognitive impairment such as (but not limited to) dyslexia, attention

    deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD);

  • Offenders with an autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) including Asperger’s syndrome;

  • Offenders with a personality disorder;

  • Offenders with a mental illness.

    Offenders may have a combination of the above conditions.

    Sentencers should be alert to the fact that not all mental disorders or learning disabilities are visible or obvious.

A mental disorder or learning disability can affect both:

  1. the offender’s responsibility for the offence and

  2. the impact of the sentence on the offender.

The court will be assisted by a PSR and, where appropriate, medical reports (including from court mental health teams) in assessing:

  1. the degree to which a mental disorder or learning disability has reduced the offender’s responsibility for the offence. This may be because the condition had an impact on the offender’s ability to understand the consequences of their actions, to limit impulsivity and/or to exercise self-control.

    • a relevant factor will be the degree to which a mental disorder or learning disability has been exacerbated by the actions of the offender (for example by the voluntary abuse of drugs or alcohol or by voluntarily failing to follow medical advice);

    • in considering the extent to which the offender’s actions were voluntary, the extent to which a mental disorder or learning disability has an impact on the offender’s ability to exercise self-control or to engage with medical services will be a relevant consideration.

  2. any effect of the mental disorder or learning disability on the impact of the sentence on

the offender; a mental disorder or learning disability may make it more difficult for the offender to cope with custody or comply with a community order.

M17. Determination and /or demonstration of steps having been taken to address addiction or offending behaviour

Where offending is driven by or closely associated with drug or alcohol abuse (for example stealing to feed a habit, or committing acts of disorder or violence whilst drunk) a commitment to address the underlying issue may justify a reduction in sentence. This will be particularly relevant where the court is considering whether to impose a sentence that focuses on rehabilitation.

Similarly, a commitment to address other underlying issues that may influence the offender’s behaviour may justify the imposition of a sentence that focusses on rehabilitation.

The court will be assisted by a PSR in making this assessment.

Regina v Nader Eldarf - Harrow Crown Court - 23 September 2018

This is an arguably wrongly decided case heard by a recorder and two magistrates sitting on an appeal against conviction at the Crown Court sitting at Harrow. A copy of the judgment was widely circulated in February 2019.

The Divisional Court will soon rule upon a similar case in DPP v Baretto [2019] EWHC

The crown court allowed an appeal against conviction by Nader Eldarf against his conviction by Willesden Magistrates’ Court on 23rd May 2018, for driving a motor vehicle while using an interactive communications device, namely a handheld mobile device, contrary to Regulation 110(1) of the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986, section 41D of the Road Traffic Act 1988 and Schedule 2 to the Road Traffic Offenders Act, 1988.

The Recorder hearing the Eldarf case said;

It seems clear to us nevertheless that the essential purpose and scheme of the Regulation is devoted to the prohibition of the use, while driving, of the inherent external interactive communication functionality of the mobile telephone [110 (1)(a)] and like devices [110 (1)(b)]. This is characterised by the list of interactive communication functions contained in Para (6)(c), each of which relates to external interactivity, and not one internal activity as between the user and the device. If it had been the intention of the (secondary) legislature to prohibit any physical operation of the handset by the user, the Regulation could have been drafted accordingly, in the simplest of terms, and without the need for the concept of interactive connectivity and precise definitions thereof.

“on the particular facts of this case, where the appellant was agreed to be doing no more than operating an internal function of his mobile telephone, whatever other offence he may have been committing under the Road Traffic Act, we were not satisfied that he was guilty of committing the specific offence prohibited by Regulation 110.”

In 2003, following a consultation by the Department for Transport, the law regarding use of hand-held mobile telephones was amended by The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) (Amendment) (No. 4) Regulations 2003. The Explanatory Note sets out the intended purpose of the new provision;

Regulations 110(1) and (2) prohibit a person from driving, or causing or permitting a person to drive, a motor vehicle on a road if the driver is using a hand-held mobile telephone or similar device.

Regulation 110(3) prohibits a person from using a mobile telephone or similar device while supervising a holder of a provisional licence at a time when the provisional licence holder is driving a motor vehicle on a road. It is an offence under section 42 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 to contravene these regulations.

Regulation 110(4) provides a definition of devices that are considered similar to hand-held mobile telephones for the purpose of these regulations. This definition excludes two-way radios.

Regulation 110(5) provides that in specific circumstances a person will not breach the regulation. Where a person makes a call to the emergency services on 999 or 112 in response to a genuine emergency where it is unsafe or impracticable for him (or the provisional licence holder) to cease driving while the call is being made, the regulation is not breached.

The response to the 2002 consultation published by the DFT included the following;

During the consultation, concern was expressed about the proposed definition of hand-held phones. The consultation document suggested that only those phones that had fixed speakers should be regarded as hands-free phones. However, there are numerous types of hands-free phones and kits to convert hand-held phones to provide some level of hands-free use.

We now consider that a more practical approach would be to prohibit the type of activity rather than to try and define different devices. The offence will therefore apply to drivers speaking or listening to a phone call, using a device interactively for accessing any sort of data, which would include the Internet, sending or receiving text messages or other images if it is held in the driver's hand during at least part of the period of its operation. We do not wish to prohibit the carrying of hand-held phones in vehicles or require them to be switched off. A phone may therefore continue to be used to receive data when it is in a vehicle providing the driver is not holding it.

Within the context of holding a phone, pushing buttons on a phone while it is in a cradle or if it is being operated via buttons on the steering wheel or handlebars of a motorbike would not, in our view, breach the new regulation.

The consultation explained that while the Department considers that drivers should not use hands- free phones, it was not proposed to include these within the scope of the new regulation due to enforcement difficulties. Although some respondents considered that further action was needed against hands-free use, the Department does not consider that hands-free phones should be prohibited unless they are being held during use.

The Department consulted on the basis that devices similar to mobile phones would be included in any new offence. There are now many types of hand-held electronic devices that can be used in a similar way to a phone to text, receive and record messages, access the Internet or data held within the device, or have dual or multi-functions. We wish to avoid creating a potential loophole and therefore holding any electronic device used for accessing oral, textual or pictorial communications will also be prohibited, provided that the device must be held at some point during the course of its operation.

In January 2018, Matthew Scott (@Barristerblog) published a ‘blog’ article entitled The law on using a mobile phone while driving is an out of date and incomprehensible mess. I agree with much of what is written therein. In particular, this commentary regarding paragraph 6 of Regulation 110;

If you read it carefully it is clear that it is not intended to define what is meant by “use” of a phone. It is directed towards the different issue of when a phone is to be “treated as hand-held.” The phrase “is to be treated as” extends the legal meaning of “hand-held” to situations in which a phone would otherwise not be considered “hand-held.” If a phone actually is held in someone’s hand it is a strange use of language to say it is “treated as hand-held,” it just is hand-held.

Had the intention been to restrict the meaning of “hand-held” to cases where the phone was being used for an interactive communications function, inserting the word “only” before “to be treated,” would have achieved that object. Alternatively a simple definition clause beginning: “A hand-held mobile telephone means ….” would have done the job.

As actually drafted, the Paragraph appears instead to extend the legal meaning of “hand-held” to some situations where the phone is not in fact in the driver’s hand. It catches, for example, the driver who starts a telephone conversation by holding a phone and dialling a number, and then drives with the phone sitting on his lap on loudspeaker. Without Paragraph (6) it could be argued that in this situation the phone was not “hand-held”. Paragraph (6) seems to close down that argument; the phone is to be “treated as hand-held” because “at some point during the course of making” the call it was held in his hand.

This construction of the Regulation avoids the undesirable, even absurd, result that drivers like Jimmy Carr are allowed to drive a motor vehicle on the road while using a hand-held mobile phone despite a law saying, in terms,“no person shall drive a motor vehicle on the road if he is using a hand held mobile telephone.” It is ridiculous that such a simple sentence should bear a convoluted meaning dependent on whether the phone is exchanging data or not.

Where does all this leave a driver who uses his phone as a satnav?

In this case the phone is being used as an “interactive communication device.” If the driver holds it whilst driving and either looks at the screen or listens to the commentary, he is breaking the law.

What about if, before he starts driving, the driver holds the phone in his hand, turns on the satnav app, and then places it on the passenger seat in order to listen to the navigation directions? There is an argument that because he has held the phone “at some point during the course of … performing [an] interactive communication function” he is to be treated as using a hand-held mobile phone while driving.

Thus, use of a mobile phone as a satnav may well be unlawful unless the app is turned on without holding the phone in your hand. Obviously, holding the phone in a special cradle will make it legal. But so too, I suppose, would pushing the necessary buttons or touching the necessary parts of the phone’s screen with your finger, as long as you do not actually pick it up and hold it. What a nonsensical law that is.

The fundamental problem is that in 2003 when the Regulation was drafted, mobile phones were very different things to those that we have today. The iPhone was not released until 2007. A mobile phone in 2003 was used for making calls or sending text messages. It was not used as a satnav, or for playing music or for almost any of the other myriad uses to which today’s phones are put. The result is that a law which might have been workable in 2003 has become a confusing mess.

There have, no doubt, been many Crown Court appeals against conviction in which Regulation 110 was considered by the court. The Nader Eldarf case has received undue prominence because it was circulated to over 10,000 criminal practitioners via Crimeline. As a legal precedent, it is not worth the paper it is printed on. This case is no more ‘persuasive’ in a lower court than any of the other Crown Court appeals from the Magistrates’ Courts that may or may not have been decided in the same way. The difference with this case is that it has been disseminated widely. In due course, the Divisional Court will rule on this in DPP v Barreto [2019] EWHC.

Drink driving and disqualification

If the offence charged is contrary to section 5(1)(a) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 then the minimum disqualification period is 12 months. The minimum disqualification period is increased to 3 years if the offender has been convicted of a relevant offence within 10 years. The minimum disqualification period is increased to 2 years if the offender has two or more 56+ day disqualifications in the preceding 3 years.

The court will refer to the chart below when deciding upon the appropriate length of disqualification.

drink-driving-sentencing-guideline.png

The court will also refer to the following list of factors when deciding upon the appropriate sentence.

Statutory aggravating factors:

  •  Previous convictions, having regard to a) the nature of the offence to which the conviction relates and its relevance to the current offence; and b) the time that has elapsed since the conviction

  •  Offence committed whilst on bail

    Other aggravating factors:

    •  Failure to comply with current court orders

    •  Offence committed on licence or post sentence supervision

    •  LGV, HGV, PSV etc

    •  Poor road or weather conditions

    •  Carrying passengers

    •  Driving for hire or reward

    •  Evidence of unacceptable standard of driving

    •  Involved in accident

    •  High level of traffic or pedestrians in the vicinity

      Factors reducing seriousness or reflecting personal mitigation

    • No previous convictions or no relevant/recent convictions

    •  Genuine emergency established

    •  Spiked drinks

    •  Very short distance driven

    •  Remorse

    •  Good character and/or exemplary conduct

    •  Serious medical condition requiring urgent, intensive or long‐term treatment

    •  Age and/or lack of maturity where it affects the responsibility of the offender

    •  Mental disorder or learning disability

    •  Sole or primary carer for dependent relatives

Drug driving and disqualification

If the offence charged is contrary to section 5A of the Road Traffic Act 1988 then the minimum disqualification period is 12 months. The minimum disqualification period is increased to 3 years if the offender has been convicted of a relevant offence within 10 years. The minimum disqualification period is increased to 2 years if the offender has two or more 56+ day disqualifications in the preceding 3 years.

The court's guideline document refers to factors increasing seriousness. There's an exhaustive list:

• Evidence of another specified drug or alcohol in the body

• Evidence of an unacceptable standard of driving

• Driving an HGV, LGV or PSV.

• Driving a vehicle for hire or reward

If none of the aforementioned factors are present then the court should consider a disqualification period of 12-22 months.

If one or more of the aforementioned factors are present then the court should consider a disqualification period of 23-28 months.

If one or more of the aforementioned factors are present and one or more aggravating factors are present then the court should consider a disqualification period of 29-36 months. A non-exhaustive list of aggravating factors is published in the guideline document:

• Previous convictions (having regard to the nature of the offence, relevance and time elapsed)

• Location (e.g. near a school)

• Passengers

• High level of traffic or pedestrians

• Poor road or weather conditions

How much do barristers earn?

Every year, practising barristers must declare their total income (net of VAT) to the Bar Council. A practising certificate fee is payable depending on declared income for the previous year.

In November 2016, the Bar Council published a consultation regarding practising certificate fees. The consultation revealed how many (of 15,800) practising barristers are in each income band category:

how-much-do-barristers-earn.png

Approximately one-third of all practising barristers (31.7%) earn less than £60,000 p.a.

Approximately half of all practising barristers (51%) earn less than £90,000 p.a.

Approximately one-quarter of all practising barristers (27.2%) earn more than £150,000 p.a.

The aforementioned fees are subject to income tax and national insurance. Barristers in independent practice must also pay for travel, chambers fees, pension contributions, computer equipment, various mandatory subscriptions, and other unrecoverable expenses.

Special Reasons in Speeding Cases

How to avoid penalty points for speeding

If an offender pleads guilty to a speeding offence he may escape endorsement if he can establish that there are Special Reasons not to endorse his licence.

The onus of proof to establish special reasons is on the defendant and the standard of proof is on the balance of probabilities. Special reasons must be supported by evidence. If the court finds special reasons then it is not bound to not endorse penalty points; it merely means that a discretion to not endorse then arises. To amount to special reasons a matter must:

  1. be a mitigating or extenuating circumstance

  2. not amount in law to a defence to the charge

  3. be directly connected wiht the commission of the offence

  4. be one which the court ought properly to take into consideration

Examples of Special Reasons in speeding cases

  • Emergency; Whittal v Kirkby [1946] 2 All ER 552

  • Emergency (hypoglycaemic attack); Warring Davies v DPP [2009] EWHC 1172

  • Illness (incontinence); Marks v West Midland Police [1981] RTR 471

  • Absence of signage; Burgess v West [1982] RTR 269

  • Solicitors’ clerk late for court; Police Prosecutor v Humphreys [1970] Crim LR 234

Duress and drink driving

A defendant who commits a crime under duress may in certain circumstances be excused liability. The defence can arise where the duress results from threats or the circumstances in which you find yourself.

Duress

The four elements of duress are as follows:

  1. That you reasonably believed that threats of death or serious injury had been made against you.

  2. That you reasonably believed that the threats would be carried out immediately and the threat was effective in the sense that there was no reasonable avenue of escape open to you to avoid the perceived threat

  3. That the threat of death or serious injury was the direct cause of you committing the offence.

  4. A sober person of reasonable firmness of your age, sex and character would have done what you did.

The prosecution must prove your guilt. It is for them to prove that the defence of duress does not apply. It is not for you to prove that it does apply.

Caselaw

There are several authorities regarding drink driving and duress.  Some of which are outlined in brief below:

DPP v Jones [1990] RTR 33

The defendant had been subjected to an attack in the car park of a public house. He got into his car which was then hit and kicked. He decided his only means of escape was to drive away. He continued to his home, a distance of one-and-a-half to two miles. The court held that the defence of necessity was available for a part of the journey to his house. The defendant did not even bother to check whether he was being pursued, whether on foot, or in a vehicle or in any other way. The defence of necessity did not avail the defendant other than for the initial part of the journey. It was unnecessary for him to have continued all the way home in his car. He could easily, especially as it appears that he was not being pursued, have pulled into a side road or into some other convenient place and proceeded for the rest of his journey home on foot. The defence of duress was not available to the defendant because he drove for a longer period than was necessary.

DPP v Bell [1992] Crim. L.R. 176

The defendant had been out drinking with some friends. Some trouble broke out which caused him to run back to his car pursued by others who were less than well disposed towards him. Fearing serious physical injury, he drove off for some distance in a state of terror. The fact that he drove only for some distance down the road and not all the way home was of significance. The defence of duress applied and had not been disproved by the prosecution.

DPP v Pittaway [1994] Crim. L.R. 600

The defendant ran 200yds home from a party outside which she had been the subject of angry words and unspecified threats from a man with whom she had formed a relationship, hid in her car for five minutes and then drove 200yds before being stopped. The man she was seeking to avoid was not in the vicinity at the time. In the court’s view, the justices had neglected to apply the objective limb of the test, since there was no evidence in either case of a threat of death or serious bodily injury.

DPP v Tomkinson [2001] R.T.R. 38

Following a New Year’s Eve party, the defendant was violently assaulted by her husband, who also injured himself and then departed in a taxi for hospital having left her without a phone, but saying that police were on their way and that she had better leave before he returned home. The police having failed to arrive, she left her house at about 6am to drive to her former home (where her children were) some 72 miles away. She was stopped by police about 9.30am and when breathalysed was found to be over the prescribed limit. The defence of duress did not avail her; she was no longer subjected to any effective threat of violence when she left the immediate area of her home in her car to commence the long journey from Harrogate to Sale, and there was no basis for the justices’ conclusion that a sober woman of reasonable firmness would or might have responded to the situation as the defendant did and drive 72 miles over the Pennines

CPS v Brown [2007] EWHC 3274

Mr Brown said that he had driven to avoid a violent confrontation following a threatening phone call. At the time he was stopped there was no evidence that the threat was continuing or that he reasonably believed he was being pursued. The case was remitted to the magistrates’ court with a direction to convict. The court did not have to resolve the question of whether or not the defence was available at the time he got into the car as it was not available when he was stopped.

Notice of Proposed Driving Disqualification

A defendant will be sent a notice of proposed driving disqualification if convicted of an offence and the court is considering whether to disqualify - because of the seriousness of the offence or the number of penalty points on the defendant's licence that were live at the time of the offence.

Receipt of a notice of proposed driving disqualification does not mean that a disqualification is inevitable. In many cases, a disqualification can be avoided - especially if the defendant can establish that exceptional hardship would follow from disqualification.

The notice will include a date by which a reply must be sent to the court. The reply can be sent by email or post.

If no reply is received then the court will proceed in the absence of the defendant and is entitled to disqualify in absence. The notice warns the defendant that a disqualification in absence would be immediate (from the deadline to respond).

There is usually a form to complete with two options:

A) No further information. I have no further information to give to the court and want the court to proceed in my absence. I understand that I may be disqualified on or after [date] and should not drive from that date until the result is confirmed by the court

B) I want to attend court. I wish to give more information to the court and request a hearing date to be set. I am unable to attend court on the following dates: [list avoid dates]

 

ADVICE

Disqualification from driving has serious consequences for many people.  In many cases, disqualification can be avoided where the case is properly prepared for court and the best mitigation is presented to the court. Instructing a direct access barrister is often less expensive than instructing a solicitor.

I have extensive experience and specialist knowledge of motoring offences.  I am regularly instructed by solicitors, corporations and members of the public. Anyone can instruct me directly pursuant to the Public Access scheme.

I provide a free telephone consultation service to new clients. My fees are reasonable and affordable. Most services are performed on an agreed fixed fee basis.  I will deal with your case from start to finish. You will not instruct me but get someone else at court. Your case will not be prepared by unqualified paralegals. I do all of the work on your case. Please contact me for further information.