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Showing posts from November, 2016

Drink driving in UK versus Norway: when is a road not a road?

This post is part of a short series of blogs inspired by the conviction of Halfords Finance Director, Jonny Mason, for drink driving in Norway. In the last post, we looked at whether the golf buggy he was driving at the time of his arrest could be a motor vehicle here in the UK. In this post, we’ll consider how our law differs from Norway’s on the place of the offence.
Mr Mason was staying in a golf resort. According to the press, he decided to drive a golf buggy from a bar to his holiday apartment. It is said that at no time did he travel beyond 10KPH or 6MPH.
In the UK, drink driving is only a crime when committed in a public place or on a road, but the legal definition of a road is much narrower than you might imagine. If you drink drive in a private place or on a road that does not meet the legal definition of a road then you will be not guilty, so it’s important that you (and your solicitor) knows the difference.
To decide whether Mr Mason’s actions could have been a crime here in t…

Halfords boss imprisoned for drink driving in Norway: is it a crime in the UK?

I read recently that Halfords finance director, Jonny Mason, has been arrested, charged and convicted for drink driving in Norway where he was found to be driving at twice the Norwegian drink driving limit.
Because I am a criminal law solicitor who specialises in offences involving motor vehicles and alcohol, I take a particular interest when I see a story about drink driving and, while you may find it difficult to understand, for me his case is very interesting because it raises several questions about English law. So, in this and the next few posts I will be looking at those points and discussing the position in England compared to that abroad.
In this post, we’ll be asking “what counts as a motor vehicle so far as drink driving law is concerned?”
Mr Mason was found to have driven a golf buggy at no more than 6MPH when returning from a bar to his holiday apartment. When we think of drink driving most people think of cars, motorcycles, vans and so on, not golf buggies. So, is a golf bug…

Passport checks before you get NHS treatment

Charlie Elphicke, the Tory MP for Dover, and officials in the Department for Health have been mooting the idea of nationwide identity checks for patients before they receive NHS treatment in the UK.
On the face of it, the reasoning behind this is the scourge of “health tourism” that plagues the pages of outraged tabloid newspapers and right wing broadsheets. In April 2016, the Telegraph reported in an article entitled, Health tourists cost UK taxpayers £6billion in eight years that “Britain has lost more than £6billion in the past eight years treating foreigners from the European Union in UK hospitals”.
But, what do we mean by health tourism? My definition is people who come to the UK specifically to receive medical treatment for free on the NHS. I, and I think most people, would not include a Frenchman who visits the UK and is hit by a car while here as a health tourist. If you accept that definition then the Telegraph’s claim is nonsense.
Full Fact tells us that people coming to the…

Did Liz Truss break the law?

A couple of days ago the Times reported that former Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, said that our current Lord Chancellor, Liz Truss, may have broken the law by failing to defend judges following personal criticism of them by national newspapers, one of which described them as “Enemies of the People”. Obviously, I usually defer to his Lordship’s better knowledge in all matters legal but in this instance, I am not convinced he is correct.
What is the law? The Constitutional Reform Act 2005 sets out who can be Lord Chancellor and the functions they must perform in the role. We’ll skim over the debatable question of whether Liz Truss, a junior politician with no experience of the justice system beyond a 17 month stint on the Justice Committee and no legal training, is actually qualified to hold the post and move swiftly on to the role of the Lord Chancellor.
Section 3 of the CRA 2005 is concerned with guaranteeing the independence of the judiciary. The section tells us that:
(1) The Lord C…

Do facts matter any more?

Beyond posting pictures of my kids for my family to see, I don’t spend much time on Facebook, but today I made an exception when I saw somebody claiming that the Queen is “worth £57bn” and criticising her for taking £360M of tax payers money to fix up Buckingham Palace. I couldn’t resist pointing out that she doesn’t own Buck House so she wouldn’t be paying for the repairs and, more importantly, she isn’t worth anything close to £57bn. According to the Sunday Times Rich List her wealth is around £360M.
This led to a discussion on various aspects of law between me (Post Graduate Diploma in Law, Called to the Bar and admitted to the Roll of Solicitors) and a man who claims a MSc(Hons) in General Knowledge – I don’t know if that’s a real qualification or not but it sounds made up. The discussion moved across property law and the law of trusts. It ended when I made the comment that my interlocutor clearly lacks basic knowledge of the law of trusts and equitable obligations. He promptly blo…

Judicial selection: does electing judges work?

Last week the Divisional Court gave judgment in the case of R (Miller) -V- Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, otherwise known as the Brexit Case. The decision of the court was that the law requires Parliament to trigger the notification of the UK’s intention to leave the EU using Article 50.
Obviously, those who campaigned on the basis that we should leave the EU to hand sovereignty back to the UK Parliament are most upset about the decision of the court that it is for the UK Parliament to make important decisions like this one. Many of the same people who are super keen on Brexit and who either don’t understand or choose to ignore what the case was about and what the court said have been up in arms about it calling for changes to how judges are appointed. In particular Daniel Hannan, Conservative MEP, who confusingly seemed to call for elected judges but then told me on Twitter he was in favour of “open confirmation hearings”, which I presume is something similar to th…

Dangerous driving: when is it okay to deliberately knock down a motorcyclist?

Although most my work is in drink driving offences, I do also handle a lot of dangerous and careless driving offences too – although I don’t advertise this service, dangerous driving and drink driving can often go hand in hand. With that in mind, I’ve been fascinated by the case of James Ellerton, the Liverpool police officer who deliberately crashed a police van into a motorcyclist.
PC Ellerton was investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission who referred the case to the Crown Prosecution Service for a decision on whether to charge PC Ellerton with dangerous driving. He was charged and subsequently tried at Liverpool Crown Court where a jury acquitted him despite the Crown alleging that his actions were excessive and in breach of police policy.
I should admit that my first reaction was that his actions must be sufficient for a conviction of dangerous driving but clearly the jury disagreed and having considered the press reports I have changed my opinion, but only just.

Causing death by dangerous driving

This week saw Tomasz Kroker sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment for causing death by dangerous driving along with the calls for tougher sentences that usually accompany such distressing cases.
Kroker had been driving his HGV along the A34 in Oxfordshire when it collided with a row of stationary vehicles that had stopped due to traffic ahead of them. Initially Kroker told him employer he had not been distracted by the radio or his telephone. In police interview, he answered no comment to all questions put to him at first. At some point, he told police that his brakes had failed suddenly. When the police showed him the dashcam footage from his lorry that showed him using his phone up until the very last second before impact Kroker admitted being distracted.
Last week he entered a guilty plea to four counts of causing death by dangerous driving and one count of causing serious injury by dangerous driving. This week judge Maura McGowan sentenced him to ten years’ imprisonment.
The relatives…