Practice and Procedure


PUBLISHED July 21, 2003

The term "current state" in s.2A Road Traffic Act 1988 implied a state different from the original or manufacture state of a vehicle. Accordingly convictions for causing and procuring death by dangerous driving were quashed where agricultural machinery, authorised for use on the roads, was in its original condition at the time of a road traffic accident.Appeals against convictions for causing and procuring death by dangerous driving. The second appellant ('E') was a farmer who employed the first appellant ('T') as a tractor driver. E owned a tractor fitted with a boom and grab at the front for moving hay or straw bales. The grab consisted of forward-pointing spikes on both the upper and lower jaw. In the course of his employment T was driving the tractor on a public highway in order to get from one part of the farm to another. The entrance he wished to turn into was blocked by a van so T waited on the correct side of the road for an opportunity to turn. The boom and grab was in the position recommended by the manufacturer for travel on the road. A motorcyclist coming in the opposite direction collided with part of the lower jaw of the grab and later died from his injuries. The appellants were charged under s.1 Road Traffic Act 1988 (amended by Road Traffic Act 1991) and by s.2A were to be regarded as driving dangerously if it would have been obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving the vehicle in its "current state" would have been dangerous. The tractor, with its attachments, was an agricultural vehicle specifically authorised by the secretary of state for use on the public highway. By s.44 of the Act the offence of using a vehicle in a "dangerous condition" under s.40A of the Act was disapplied to such authorised vehicles. The appellants contended that s.44 exempted the user of the vehicle from prosecution under s.40A and that, as a matter of public policy the exemption should also apply to offences under s.1 of the Act. The recorder left the prosecution case to the jury on two bases argued by the Crown, namely that the tractor's position on the road was such that the grab protruded into the oncoming lane or that it was dangerous to drive the vehicle on the road at all because the spikes themselves created a danger. The jury must have convicted T, at least, on the basis of the dangerous condition of the vehicle because they convicted E of procuring the offence due to the dangerous condition of the vehicle. The appellants contended it was unfair, and therefore an abuse of process, for them to be tried on the basis of the dangerous condition of the vehicle.HELD: (1) There would be cases where the condition of a vehicle was such that, even though that vehicle was authorised by the secretary of state, a prosecution under s.1 or s.2 of the Act would be appropriate. Such cases would almost always involve an allegation that the driver had so manoeuvred the vehicle as to create a danger additional to that created by the mere presence of the vehicle on the road. However, special care had to be taken when deciding whether it was appropriate to prosecute where the dangerous condition of a vehicle arose only from its inherent design, rather than from poor maintenance or alterations. (2) The exception under s.44 of the Act did not provide a defence to a prosecution under s.1 of the Act. (3) The term "current state" in s.2A of the Act implied a state different from the original or manufactured state of a vehicle (Wood v Milne (1987) considered). Accordingly the prosecution case on the basis of the dangerous condition of the tractor should not have been left to the jury. (4) It was appropriate to refer a jury to the following facts where they existed, namely that: (i) the state of a vehicle was inherent; (ii) the vehicle was authorised for use on the road; and (iii) the vehicle was being used in rural areas where agricultural machinery was frequently driven along country road. In the present case, it was appropriate and desirable for the recorder to have made some reference to the fact that the tractor was an authorised vehicle in its "inherent" condition in order to assist the jury in deciding whether the vehicle was "obviously dangerous to a competent and dangerous driver". (5) The convictions had to be quashed.Appeals allowed.

[2003] EWCA Crim 2099