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Drink driving

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One thing I have found since specialising in motoring law is that it is an area that is poorly understood by many people, criminal lawyers and judges included. I have heard comments from fellow solicitors that include, “I don’t need any papers to advise him about his case, it’s only drink driving.” And, “there are no defences to drink driving.” Most worryingly I’ve heard more than one court legal adviser tell their magistrates that “it is impossible to avoid a driving ban following a drink driving conviction.” None of these things are true and I hope, through a series of blog posts, to give a brief glimpse into the law of motor vehicles and alcohol.


In this first post I think it’s worth spelling out exactly what drink driving is and what needs to be proven to secure a conviction.


The first thing to know is that there are two different types of drink driving and they require the prosecution to prove different things. We’ll start with the older version of the offence, driving while unfit …

How did a vicious attacker get off so lightly?

Above is the video of an assault on a police officer. As the video explains, the police saw an incident as somebody was ejected from a bar and went to see what was happening. As PC GIlder was dealing with a man another man ran up behind him and punched him to the back of the head knocking the officer unconscious. The attacker was fined £165, which by any stretch of the imagination seems unjustifiably lenient especially when viewed against sentences recently imposed for far less serious assaults on politicians.


The story has been picked up by several news outlets including the Daily Star and the Sun newspapers. Unsurprisingly all of the reports criticise the very lenient sentence imposed on this attacker.


Interestingly though, none of the reports name the man and all of the reports give broadly the same information that appears to have been lifted entirely from the video above and presumably a press release that accompanied it. This does give the impression that the reports are all ba…

Dr Evil - the demon tattooist of Wolverhampton

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Brendan McCarthy, who self-styles himself Dr Evil, has entered a guilty plea to causing grievous bodily harm on several people. There’s nothing exceptional about that, except that all of Dr Evil’s victims not only asked to be seriously wounded… they actually paid for the privilege!
Mr McCarthy is a tattoo artist from Wolverhampton who offered body modification to his customers. This includes tattoos, piercings and tongue splitting as well as genital beading, ear modifications and nipple removal. It seems to have been the tongue splitting, ear modification and nipple removals that formed the basis of the case against him.

Dr Evil was charged with assault occasioning grievous bodily harm, which is an offence contrary to sections 18 and 20 of the Offence Against the Person Act 1861; I gather from the press reports that Mr McCarthy was charged with the more serious version under section 18, which reads,
“Whosoever shall unlawfully and maliciously by any means whatsoever wound or cause any…

Challenging forensic evidence is crucial in criminal trials

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You may, or may not, know that I specialise in motoring law and that my practice has a particular emphasis on drink driving, drug driving and the associated offences. Because these offences usually require some scientific enquiry to be conducted to prove guilt, they frequently include forensic evidence and today I want to look at how courts deal with forensic evidence and challenges to it.
Let’s assume that somebody has been arrested for drink driving and, for whatever reason, the police have taken blood to assess how much alcohol is in his body. The prosecution will usually provide a document called an SFR1, which is a summary of the scientific examiner’s findings. It is not a document that is admissible itself, although it can be admitted if all parties agree. If a party does not agree to the summary being admitted then the prosecution ask the expert to produce an SFR2 document, which is a formal witness statement containing all of the experts findings and is in an admissible forma…

Does the current law protect police drivers who use force to stop motorcyclists?

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The Metropolitan Police – that’s the one’s in London if you didn’t know – have released a video showing their officers using police cars to ram moped and motorcycle riders from their bikes. Watching the video with no context you could be forgiven for concluding that these are unreasonably heavy handed tactics that put lives at risk; however, police officers who I trust to know about these things have told me that these tactics are only used to end protracted chases where members of the public are put at risk and to catch the most dangerous offenders. The police conduct risk assessments as events are unfolding both by officers involved in the pursuit and by senior officers back at the police station monitoring events.
This post is not about whether those tactics are right or wrong, instead I want to look at the potential legal consequences for police officers taking these actions and what, if anything, the law can do to protect them.
Ramming other vehicles off the road is not something…

Guilty until proven innocent?

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A couple of years ago the government introduced a new system of bringing prosecutions in the magistrates’ court, called the Single Justice Procedure Notice (SJPN). This procedure allows the police to initiate prosecutions more speedily than under the old system and effectively allows trials to be held in which the defendant is almost deemed guilty from the start.
It can only be used for non-imprisonable offences but that can include a surprising range of allegations, e.g. it was recently used to prosecute an HGV driver alleged to have knocked down a cyclist.
This new procedure arises from an amendment made to section 29 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 that allows for criminal proceedings to be instituted by the service of a written charge. Where a written charge is issued the prosecutor must at the same time issue either a requisition or a Single Justice Procedure Notice, which is a document that requires the recipient to serve on a magistrates court a notice saying whether they ar…

Why people hate lawyers

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Our society flourishes because it is built upon a system of rules that apply to everyone and which make our society a safe and predictable place to do business… at least they do if you know the rules and follow them. We call these rules “the law” and without them there would be no contracts providing us with a framework for our daily exchanges of money for goods, no consumer protections preventing unscrupulous manufacturers selling our children dangerous toys or toxic food, there would be no police to catch those who would seek to harm us because, of course, without laws there would be no rules to ban harming others, instead at best we’d have vigilante justice. With no laws structuring our society, would we have advanced much beyond the squalor and violence of the measly middle ages? These laws we have that provide the structure to our society exist only because lawyers draft them, debate them and enforce them.
Shakespeare recognised the importance of law and lawyers when he had Dick…