The recent case of R v Hughes considered the position if the driver was deemed to be completely faultless and the deceased driver was 100% responsible.
In October 2009 Mr Hughes was driving a van that was in collision with a vehicle being driven by the deceased. It was accepted that Mr Hughes was driving entirely correctly and that the vehicle being driven by the deceased was being driven erratically, weaving all over the road. It was further established that the deceased was under the influence of heroin, had just finished four consecutive night shifts and had already driven 200 miles at the time of the collision and was on the wrong side of the road. Unfortunately though, Mr Hughes was neither licensed nor insured.
Mr Hughes, in the words of the judgement had culpably chosen to disregard what everyone knows is the duty of a driver to carry insurance. He had also had his licence revoked on medical grounds although the revocation had been revoked.
Driving without a licence or insurance are offences of strict liability, if you don’t have them, you are guilty regardless of the circumstances.
This is an unusual case because the Crown Court initially accepted Mt Hughes’ contention that he had not “caused” the death but the Crown appealed and the Court of Appeal found that he had in fact caused the death by virtue of the fact that he was on the road whist uninsured and unlicensed.
This matter ended up on further appeal before the Supreme Court and they, in a lengthy judgement decided that to be guilty of the offence, there had to be “some act or omission in control of the car which involves “some element of fault”.
Driving without the correct documentation can never be acceptable but there are circumstances which make a conviction a complete nonsense if the only requirement were to show presence on the road. There are occasions in the case of no insurance when there has been a genuine error and it could be that someone could find themselves in this position if for example, the policy had been cancelled due to no payment of a direct debit. The judgement itself gives the example of a pedestrian, intent on committing suicide, who walks out in front of a moving vehicle.
Mr Hughes, in this case, should have been punished for what he had done wrong, namely the insurance and driving licence offences. To convict of an imprisonable offence in the circumstances of this case was wrong and the Supreme Court quite rightly found in his favour.
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Nicholas Hall is an experienced solicitors, based at QualitySolicitors Keith Park. He is an expert in Criminal Law and Motoring Offences.
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