Source: All England Reporter
Publisher Citation: [2013] All ER (D) 388 (Jul)
Neutral Citation: [2013] UKSC 56
Court: Supreme Court

Lord Neuberger P, Lord Mance, Lord Kerr, Lord Hughes and Lord Toulson SCJJ

Representation Robert Smith QC and C J Knox (instructed by John Donkin Solicitors) for the appellant.
  John Price QC and Sarah Whitehouse (instructed by the Crown Prosecution Service) for the Crown.
Judgment Dates: 31 July 2013


Road traffic - Offence - Prosecution - Appellant driving whilst uninsured and without full driving license when confronted by motor car driven erratically by D in opposite direction - D's car crossing to wrong side of road before smashing into appellant's van - D suffering injuries in impact proving fatal - D being found to be drug user and under influence of heroin - Parties accepting nothing appellant could have done to avoid collision - Appellant guilty of driving uninsured and without full driving license, but instead being prosecuted for causing death of D at time when uninsured and without full driving licence - At trial, recorder ruling appellant not committing either offence as not causing D's death - Crown appealing ruling - Court of Appeal ruling appellant causing death in law and that not element of offence that appellant's driving had to exhibit any fault contributing to accident - Appellant appealing - Whether an offence committed by unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured driver when circumstances were that manner of driving faultless and deceased was 100% responsible for causing fatal accident - .

The Case

Road traffic Offence. The appellant was driving when uninsured and without a full driving licence when he was confronted by a motor car driven erratically by D in the opposite direction. D's car was veering all over the road, twice crossing to the wrong side before smashing into the appellant's camper van. D suffered injuries in the impact which proved fatal. He was found to have been a drug user and to be under the influence of heroin, as well as being overtired at the relevant time. It was accepted that there was nothing that the appellant could have done to avoid the collision. He was guilty of the two offences of driving uninsured and driving without a full driving licence. However, instead of being prosecuted for those offences, he was prosecuted for two offences under s3ZB of the namely for causing the death of D at a time when he had been uninsured and without a full driving licence. At trial, the recorder ruled that the appellant had not committed either offence because he had not caused the death of D. However, the Crown appealed that ruling to the Court of Appeal, Criminal Division. The Court of Appeal ruled that the appellant had, in law, caused the death, following a ruling in a previous case that it was not an element of the offence that the appellant's driving had to exhibit any fault contributing to the accident; it was enough that the appellant had been uninsured, or without a full licence and that his car had been involved in a fatal collision. The appellant appealed. The Supreme Court, in allowing the appeal, held that s3ZB of the Act required at least some act or omission in the control of the car, which involved some element of fault, whether amounting to careless-inconsiderate driving or not, and which contributed in some more than minimal way to the death. It was not necessary that such act or omission be the principal cause of the death. On the facts, the recorder had been correct to rule that the appellant had not in law caused the death by his driving. The recorder's ruling would be restored.

Practice Areas

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