Practice and Procedure


PUBLISHED February 11, 2003

Where special reasons were posited for not disqualifying a driver convicted for driving with excess alcohol, the objective test to be applied was whether a reasonable person confronted with the circumstances faced by the driver would have acted as the driver had acted.Appeal by way of case stated against a finding by Telford Magistrates Court on 9 August 2002 that there were special reasons not to disqualify the defendant ('U') from driving following his conviction for driving with excess alcohol in his bloodstream. U had been drinking and had fallen asleep. His sister later fell down and experienced chest pain and breathing difficulties. U asked a friend ('X') to call an ambulance. X tried to call an ambulance on his mobile telephone but told U that he could get neither an ambulance nor a taxi. U then took the decision to drive. The magistrates held that the need to drive his sister to hospital constituted a special reason for not disqualifying U and that the mitigation advanced by U amounted to "duress of circumstances". On the present appeal the DPP argued: (i) that U had not exhausted all other possibilities of dealing with the emergency prior to taking the decision to drive; and (ii) that a finding of "duress of circumstances" carried the implication that U had a complete defence to the charge and in those circumstances "special reasons" not to disqualify following conviction could have no application.HELD: (1) The magistrates had failed to apply their minds to the correct objective test which involved a consideration of what a reasonable person would have done in the circumstances. There was no finding that U had acted as a reasonable person would have acted. (2) Where there was a defence of duress of circumstances, special reasons could not apply. If duress was raised the justices should consider it but should not raise the issue of their own accord.Decision of justices quashed. Matter remitted for reconsideration.