Practice and Procedure


PUBLISHED October 22, 2003

In all the circumstances of the case the interests of justice would not have been served by leaving to the jury an alternative verdict of careless driving on a charge of causing death by dangerous driving as the lesser offence did not arise on the facts of the case put forward.Appeal, with leave of the single judge, against conviction for causing death by dangerous driving imposed on 20 September 2002 at Manchester Crown Court by HH Judge Woodward. The defendant ('D') was sentenced to five years' imprisonment. On 11 October 2000 at 2 am on the M60, D's car collided head on with a stationary motorway works van standing in a coned off area in the outside third lane. The passenger in D's car died eight days later. The maintenance works being carried out were well lit by street lighting and also by special halogen spotlights. The works resulted in a long row of cones stretching for between one and a half and two miles, the road was straight. The cones were regularly checked and there were no gaps allowing a vehicle to enter unless it was driven very slowly. It was the prosecution's case that D could only have entered into the coned area deliberately. D contended that he had joined the motorway and followed the cones which had lead him into the outside lane. He had been travelling at between 50-60 mph, when he saw the van he braked but it had been too late to stop. He had not driven intentionally or purposefully into the lane, the cones had lead him there. D appealed conviction on the ground that the judge should have left to the jury, as an alternative verdict, careless driving in case they didn't think he was guilty of dangerous driving but were reluctant to acquit.HELD: (1) It was decided in R v Maxwell 1990 91 Cr App R 61 when alternative verdicts should be left to the jury and two principles could be derived from that case: (i) the right case varied from one case to another; and (ii) the judge was obliged to leave a lesser offence if necessary in the interests of justice. The interests of justice would not be served if a lesser offence did not arise on the basis of the case put forward. (2) On the one hand the prosecution case was that D drove dangerously and deliberately into the cones, and whether or not that was correct, he drove so dangerously he drove head on into the van. On the other hand was that D did nothing wrong and had only driven carelessly. No justice would be served by leaving an alternative to the jury. The judge was right when he directed that if D was guilty of dangerous driving then convict him and if not then acquit. There was no basis to suppose an alternative should be left before the jury.Appeal dismissed.