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Showing posts from 2017

British values: queuing

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Ask a foreigner to describe Britain and the British and you’ll no doubt get a list that includes cold weather, rain, stiff upper lips, tea drinking and queuing. Most of these are myths and stereotypes but some have substance to them.
Paragraph 26 of Schedule 11 to the Greater London Authority Act 1999 allows Transport for London to make byelaws governing all kinds of conduct on the railways under TfL’s control. This is standard stuff, railways across the country have these powers. They can, and do, create rules and laws including criminal offences that apply only to their railways.
TfL’s byelaws regulate conduct such as banning smoking and open containers of alcohol as well as potentially dangerous substances, including acid that could be used in an attack. Perhaps more surprisingly byelaw 1 regulates queuing.
“1. Queuing
(1) The Operator or an authorised person may require any person to queue in order to regulate order or safety on or near the railway.
(2) Any person directed by a notice …

The statutory warning

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The statutory warning sounds like something impossibly dull – any maybe it is if you’re not a lawyer – but it is something that is very important in drink driving cases.
When the police suspect somebody of drink driving they must take a specimen of breath, blood or urine from them that can be analysed to show whether the person was over or under the drink driving limit at the time they drove. Parliament has laid down strict rules about what must happen prior to the police requiring that a person suspected of drink driving provides a specimen for analysis.
Section 7 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 gives the police the power to require a person to provide a specimen and tells us that the person commits an offence if he or she fails or refuses to do without reasonable excuse. However, section 7(7) says that: “A constable must, on requiring any person to provide a specimen in pursuance of this section, warn him that a failure to provide it may render him liable to prosecution.” The words are m…

Police Christmas Drink Driving Campaigns 2017

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It’s only November but with Christmas less than six-weeks away you can be sure that police forces across the country are well into planning their Christmas 2017 drink driving campaigns.
Last year saw thousands of people breath tested and thousands more arrested across the country for drink driving and police forces reporting a shift in the type of people being arrested. People often associate drink driving with young men; however, West Yorkshire Police reported in January 2017 that 40% of people arrested for drink driving were over 35 years old and of those a significant proportion were women. Dorset Police supported those sentiments labelling the majority of drink drivers as, “not your usual suspects”, pointing out that most of those arrested are normally law-abiding people who misjudged how much alcohol they could drink before driving.
Drink driving the morning after a night out drinking is something that regularly catches people out. You have few drinks and feel you are safe to driv…

Should you rely on a home breathalyser?

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I’ve been prompted to write this post following a Periscope broadcast by @SgtTCS about drink driving and the use of home breath test kits.

SgtTCS is a serving police sergeant whom I have followed on Twitter for many years. He is extremely dedicated to his work and to promoting road safety. He has used social media to campaign against all sorts of dangers that motorists encounter on the roads.
This is his tweet with a link to the Periscope broadcast:
Personal breathalysers - #31DaysLive Day 78 suggested by @jred196https://t.co/ityxGz0cTJ — SgtTCS (@SgtTCS) October 17, 2017

First, I should say that I do not disagree with the points SgtTCS makes but, having spent many years representing drink drivers, I do feel that he, and many other police officers, underestimate the importance of breath test devices in helping people avoid drink driving.
The argument from many seems to be that people should take personal responsibility by controlling their drinking and “have none for the road”. This over…

Section 172 notices

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A short post on section 172 notices this afternoon. I tend to focus on drink driving offences, although I do undertake any type of motoring law case if asked, so section 172 notices pop up from time to time in my work.
If you don’t already know, section 172 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 requires the registered keeper of a vehicle to identify the driver of the vehicle when the police allege that the driver at the time was responsible for an offence. If you’ve ever had a speeding ticket through the post then you will probably have been sent one of these documents sent out with the Notice of Intended Prosecution. Failing to provide the information is an offence in itself that carried a fine and six penalty points. There are technical legal defences but the most common defence I’ve seen is people giving evidence that they did return the form but it got lost somewhere along the line.
In general, when a person gives evidence that they posted the section 172 notice having completed it properly …

Sexual history of rape victims still being put on trial

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I seem to be constantly departing from my main aim of talking about motoring law on the rare occasions I manage to write a blog but today the Times today ran an appalling story(£££) that serves only to sensationalise the public’s perception of how rape and sexual assault trials are conducted and can do nothing but put victims in fear of going to the police following an attack. They also included reference to the Ched Evans proving that once accused you can never escape these allegations even after acquittal - here's what I had to say about Evans case at the time.
According to the Times a study of 550 trials conducted over a two-year period found questions about a complainants sexual past were put in three-quarters of cases, which seems to suggest that the rules preventing this are being improperly circumvented. The Times goes on to assert that 44% of complainants were only told that they would face such questions after the trial had begun. Sadly, not a single one of these “facts” i…

Wayne Rooney in court for drink driving

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On the 1st September 2017, Everton and England international footballer Wayne Rooney was stopped by police as he drove his car through Wilmslow, Cheshire in the early hours of the morning.
The police said that there was a light out on the car Mr Rooney was driving so they decided to stop it – presumably on the basis that people who have committed more serious offences often commit minor ones like having a light out on their cars.
They found Mr Rooney in the driving seat with a lady in the front passenger seat. The police officers asked him to provide a specimen of breath to establish whether he was fit to drive or not. I haven’t seen a report saying why they did this but as section 6 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 only allows a specimen to be required where a constable reasonably suspects that a person has been driving with alcohol or drugs in their system we can assume that something about Mr Rooney made them suspect he was drunk. Typically, police are on the look out for slurred speech…

Acid attacks and the CPS response

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I wrote recently about the spate of acid attacks and the proposals for dealing with them suggested by some MPs. Today, I want to talk about the comments by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders.
Ms Saunders comments appear to show that she is somebody who has no understanding of the role of the CPS or the law itself. Now Ms Saunders is a very experienced prosecutor and lawyer. She has risen to the very top of her organisation and I do not for a minute believe that she does not understand what the CPS does or what the law is regarding acid attacks. According to the Guardian newspaper, Ms Saunders said that there is a strong public interest in her authorising the CPS to give out the strongest punishments to acid attackers. I suspect she didn’t say that exactly since it’s not a direct quote and is most likely badly paraphrased by a journalist. But, it’s worth saying that the CPS do not give out punishments. They can influence the final sentence through the offence they charg…

Extended court openings – update

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This is a quick update on the blog I posted yesterday about the plan to extend court sitting times from 8am to 8pm in various pilot locations across the country. In that blog, I argued that courts are currently underutilised and that HMCTS should look to resolve that issue before thinking about sitting earlier or later.
I have now had a chance to take a snapshot of the Crown Courts across England and Wales today. I have done this in quite a rough and ready way by looking at the lists for each court and counting up the numbers of courts that are either marked as not sitting or that do not appear on the list when they should do if they were sitting today.
My findings show that 16.4% of the available courtrooms in Crown Courts across England and Wales are not being used at all today. In addition, there were a significant number where the courts were not sitting before 2pm or where only one case was listed for the whole day where you would not normally expect that hearing to take up the wh…

Extended court hours

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Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) is trialling extended court opening hours in several courts across the country. The courts will be open 8am til 8pm – some will open from 8am til 6.30pm while others will start later and finish at 8.45pm. I’m not entirely clear what time the late finishing courts will start no doubt because I’m one of the many ill-informed lawyers of whom Lord Justice Fulford spoke. Of course, I might be a little more informed if HMCTS actually told us the plan but there you go.
The hope for extending court opening hours is that HMCTS will be able to make better use of the existing court buildings, which is fair enough if there is a shortage of courts available to head cases. But, is there a shortage of courtrooms?
Monday last, I attended Thames Magistrates’ Court to act as duty solicitor for courtroom 1. I arrived to find that court 1 had been closed for the day due to a lack of staff to operate it. Historically, Thames has been the busiest magistrates’…

Criminal charges for Brexit bus claims

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LBC radio tweeted a report that Lord Sugar, a cross-bench member of the House of Lords, told them that the people behind the infamous Brexit bus claim (and similar claims) should face criminal charged against them. Judging by the response to that tweet a lot of people agree and I’ve seen a number of people, lawyers included, arguing that fraud or misconduct in public office charges should be brought. But, how successful would such a bus-based criminal charge be in practice?
First, let’s just remind ourselves of the facts. On the 23rd June 2016, the UK voted in a referendum on whether it should remain a member of the European Union. In the run up to that vote various arguments were put forward by both sides – a few of the arguments were sensible but an awful lot were fantastical, e.g. David Cameron’s claim that a vote to leave the EU would inevitably lead to World War Three. On the Leave side, the most disputed point that is still being talked about is the suggestion that if we left the…