Wednesday 3 August 2011

What is a Segway?

General information about Segways

The Administrative Court recently gave judgment in Coates v CPS [2011] EWHC (Admin) 2032.  Mr Coates was charged with:
"On 12/02/2010 at Barnsley wilfully rode a motor vehicle, namely SEGWAY upon a footpath or causeway by the side of a road, namely PONTEFRACT ROAD, made or set apart for the use or accommodation of foot passengers. Contrary to section 72 of the Highway Act 1835."
He was convicted by District Judge (Magistrates' Courts) Rosenberg sitting at Barnsley Magistrates' Court.

Very little of this old Act survives but section 72 continues in force.  At para 16 of the judgment, the court said that section 72 contained 3 ways in which the offence could be committed.

1) If any person wilfully rides upon any footpath
2) If any person wilfully leads or drives any … carriage of any description, or any truck or sledge, upon any such footpath.

3) If any person tethers any horse, ass, mule, swine, or cattle on any highway, so as to suffer or permit the tethered animal to be thereon.

On a straightforward
reading of the section, under (1) it does not matter whether the person is riding a motor vehicle.  Merely riding suffices.  Therefore, under (1), the words -"motor vehicle, namely a SEGWAY" were superfluous.  The meaning of "riding" was considered and it was held that Mr Coates had been riding the Segway.

Under (2), was the Segway being "driven."  Again, the court said YES.  Further, was the Segway a "carriage".  The court said - YES.  A bicycle had been held to be a "carriage" in many cases - e.g. Taylor v Goodwin (1879) 4 QBD 228.  Parity of reasoning pointed to the Segway also being a "carriage."

Further, the court was of the view that a Segway is a "motor vehicle" for the purposes of the Road Traffic Act 1988 s185(1).

Mr Coates was held to be guilty of the offence.  The District Judge had fined him fined £75, a surcharge of £15 and Costs of £250.  It was not open to the Administrative Court to alter that.  (Appeal against sentence would lie to the Crown Court).

This case is quite fascinating for the way in which an old but "always speaking" Act is applied to new developments.  For "always speaking" statutes - Lord Steyn in R v Ireland [1998] AC 147

The court made it clear that Ministerial opinion on the meaning of an Act is not determinative - para. 56.  Did it matter that some EU States permit Segways to be ridden on pavements?  NO.  The case is well worth reading.  Several questions arising in connection with section 72 remain to be decided should suitable cases arise in the future.

By the way - when did the Liverpool - Manchester Railway come into operation?   When did Trevithick's Steam Road vehicle appear?  When is a man "driving" a cow?  Was the bicycle liable to a toll at Swinford (on the Thames)?  The answers are all in the judgment.

"Cycling on the pavement is not always an offence" - Jorren Knibbe, The Guardian.

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