Driving Without Due Care and Attention; Company Director Acquitted Against All the Odds.

On 18th March 2021, Tomas McGarvey’s client E M, a company director charged with driving without due care and attention, was acquitted after trial at Coventry Magistrates’ Court by two lay magistrates.

The prosecution case was supported by five witnesses including an off-duty police officer who was travelling in the vehicle behind E M. The prosecution alleged that E M drove through a red traffic light signal, increasing his speed to “beat the lights” and turning right into an oncoming vehicle travelling in the other direction. Both cars collided causing significant injuries to those travelling in the other vehicle, including an adult who broke their back as a result of the collision. A child in the vehicle also sustained injuries.

During cross-examination Tomas established that E M may not have broken a red signal with several witnesses accepting that it was possible that E M crossed on an amber signal. The off-duty police officer suggested that E M increased his speed to cross the line referring to a “dipping” at the rear of E M’s vehicle, but when challenged, conceded that he had not mentioned this in his witness statement. Tomas also established that the driver of the other vehicle had veered out of his own lane at the last minute, also crossing on an amber signal, and had failed to brake or make any attempt to stop.

In evidence E M stated that it was unsafe for him to stop when the lights turned amber and that he turned into the other carriageway having first checked to see if the road was clear; he had noticed one vehicle slowing for the lights and had not noticed the car that eventually collided with him. At the time E M checked, that car was travelling in the same lane as the slowing car, as accepted by the driver in cross-examination.

In his closing speech, Tomas submitted that the actions of the other driver contributed or caused the collision, and that E M could not have known that the other driver would veer out from behind the vehicle that was slowing down. Tomas invited the lay magistrates to conclude that it was reasonable for E M to assume that the other vehicle would also slow down, and that it was not reasonable to expect the other driver to overtake and cross the line without attempting to stop. Tomas relied upon what E M, the reasonable driver “could be expected to be aware” of. It was submitted that the other driver was in fact driving without due care an attention and this was a relevant “circumstance of the case”.

What does “driving without due care and attention” mean?

Section 3ZA of the Road Traffic Act 1988 provides that a person is to be regarded as driving without due care and attention if (and only if) the way he drives falls below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver (s.3ZA(2)).

In determining what would be expected of a careful and competent driver, regard must be had not only to the circumstances of which he (the competent and careful driver) could be expected to be aware, but also to any circumstances shown to have been within the knowledge of the accused (s.3ZA(3)).

In cases where the prosecution alleges driving without due care and attention, once a possible explanation is put forward the prosecution are required to prove it untrue beyond reasonable doubt. The Highway Code is a good guide as to whether the driver has departed from the required standard of driving, but breach of the code is not necessarily conclusive.

The correct test as to whether a defendant is guilty of careless driving is an objective one; McCrone v Riding [1938] 1 All E.R. 157. The prosecution must prove, beyond reasonable doubt, that the defendant driver has departed from the standard of a competent and careful driver in “all the circumstances of the case”.

What happens if you are convicted of driving without due care and attention?

The sentencing procedure for driving without due care and attention is set out in the Magistrates’ Court Sentencing Guidelines. The maximum sentence is a fine, but perhaps more importantly, all cases will result in the imposition of a minimum of 3 points, with the most serious “category 1” cases receiving 7 to 9 points OR discretional disqualification. There are numerous relevant factors relating to harm and culpability.

In the above case, had E M been convicted, the lay magistrates would have considered the case to be one of high culpability and greater harm due to the allegation of speeding/aggressive driving and the extremely serious injuries sustained by the occupants of the other vehicle (Category 1). E M would may have received a minimum of 7 to 9 points or, more likely, a discretionary driving ban in the region of 6 to 12 months.

E M uses his vehicle for work purposes and would have been severely inconvenienced, with a direct impact on his business, had he been convicted of driving without due care and attention.

Tomas McGarvey was instructed by Mr Kaprata of AG Law Ltd. For more information about instructing Tomas, please contact Church Court Chambers senior clerk, Daniel Bartlett: by email d.bartlett@churchcourtchambers.co.uk or by phone  020 7936 3637.

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