Saturday, 22 April 2017

Road Traffic ~ Speeding penalties ~ Dangerous driving

Speeding fines are subject to new sentencing guidelines which are effective from 24th April 2017 - Sentencing Council Guidelines - Speeding.   For an explanation of Fine Bands - see here.   The driver with a recorded speed of 41 to 50 mph in a 30 mph limit will face a Band B fine and 4 to 6 penalty points.  Disqualification is also possible.

Here are two recent cases involving dangerous driving.

Tania Chikwature:

The offence of dangerous driving is defined in the Road Traffic Act 1988 section 2 and the meaning of dangerous driving is set out in section 2A.   One recent example of dangerous driving is that of Tania Chikwature who was driving a Nissan Qashqai in December 2016.  The website of the Cambridgeshire Police has details of the case including video taken from the cab of a lorry which was overtaken by Chikwature on the approach to a roundabout.

Chikwature's child was a passenger in the car.  It was very fortuitous that neither Chikwature nor the child suffered serious injury.  The Police website states that a breath sample was refused at the scene and so a blood sample was taken in hospital some four and three quarter hours later.  A "back calculation" indicated an alcohol level of 246 milligrammes per of 100 millilitres of blood.  The limit is 80.

This is a serious example of dangerous driving and it is legally interesting because the whole case was dealt with in the Magistrates' Court where Chikwature pleaded guilty to both dangerous driving and driving with excess alcohol.  A sentence of 26 weeks imprisonment was imposed for the dangerous driving and a 3 year disqualification.  The offender will also be required to pass an extended re-test before being permitted to drive again.  There was a "victim" surcharge of £115.  For the excess alcohol offence a concurrent sentence of 12 weeks imprisonment was imposed.

Dangerous driving is an "either way" offence and so this case could have been committed for sentence to the Crown Court.  The Crown Court may impose a maximum sentence of 2 years imprisonment.

When either way cases come before the Magistrates' Court, the allocation guidelines encourage the case to be dealt with in that court.  The guidance states that - "In general, either way offences should be tried summarily unless the outcome would clearly be a sentence in excess of the court's powers for the offence(s) concerned after taking into account personal mitigation and any potential reduction for a guilty plea ...."   The Magistrates' Court is reminded by the guidelines of its power to commit the defendant to the Crown Court for sentence.

Observers of the legal scene often have only the published information to help them understand cases.  This information lacks the detail which is either available to or should be available to a court when it has to make decisions about important matters such as allocation or sentence.  Media reporting of cases frequently fails to present adequately the arguments put forward by the prosecution and the defence.  The Magistrates could hardly have been criticised had they committed the case for sentencing in the Crown Court where it seems likely that a higher penalty might well have been considered to be appropriate.

Michael Casey:

A further case is that of Michael Casey who pleaded guilty to causing the deaths by dangerous driving of Stacey Burrows and Lucy Pygott.  This offence is defined by the Road Traffic Act 1988 section 1.

One of the more detailed media reports of the case appeared in the Evening Standard 13th APRIL where it is reported that Casey admitted in Police interview to drinking three or four pints of lager as well as a two-pint pitcher of a cocktail called Godfather which contained three 25ml shots of Jack Daniels and the same amount of Disaronno Amaretto.  The prosecutor said that he gave a breath test at the scene of 38mcg of alcohol in 100ml of breath, the legal limit is 35mcg, but a back calculation meant he would have been at 46mcg at the time of the crash.  The prosecutor further said that that Casey was driving at 40-49mph in the 30mph zone.   Casey failed to notice a red light at a pedestrian crossing with fatal consequences for the two girls.

A sentence of 6 years imprisonment was imposed which, allowing for the maximum discount for guilty plea, represents a 9 year starting point.  The maximum possible sentence for this offence is 14 years.  Disqualification is mandatory (minimum 2 years) and an extended re-test is also mandatory.

Unfortunately, the Judiciary website has not published the judge's sentencing remarks.

R v Tracey Riddell:

The Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) held that, while it is likely to be a rare case on the facts where self-defence is even capable of arising with regard to a count of dangerous (or careless) driving, such defence is in principle capable as a matter of law of being available on such a count. All, ultimately, will depend on the use of force involved in the driving by reference to the particular circumstances of the case.

R v Tracey Riddell [2017] EWCA Crim 413 (Davis LJ, McGowan J and HHJ Kinch QC)

1 comment:

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