Practice and Procedure


PUBLISHED October 31, 2003

On a proper construction of Council Regulations 3820/85 and 3821/85 whether a vehicle was required to use a tachograph was dependant on the type of vehicle and not the purpose of the journey that the vehicle was undertaking.Appeal by way of case stated by the Vehicle Operators' Service Agency ('V') from the decision of Southampton Magistrates' Court on 9 April 2002 to acquit the respondents of using a vehicle in which recording equipment was not used contrary to Art.15(2) Council Regulation 3821/85 and s.97(1)(a)(iii) Transport Act 1968. The vehicle was a 17 tonne tractor unit with trade plates and was stopped on its way to Southampton Docks where it was being taken for export. The magistrates considered Art.3 Council Regulation 3821/85 together with Council Regulation 3820/85. They concluded that a tachograph was not required to be used because the Regulations applied to vehicles "which are used" for the carriage of goods or passengers. Since the vehicle in question was only being driven to the docks for the purpose of export, on a narrow construction of the Regulations, the magistrates held that they could not apply. On appeal V argued that: (i) European legislation was to be interpreted purposively, not literally; (ii) in considering the purpose of the Regulations regard was to be had to the preambles to them; (iii) the purpose of the Regulations was to harmonise conditions of competition and to improve working conditions and road safety; and (iv) the Regulations should therefore be read as applying to any vehicle which was capable of being used for the carriage of goods or passengers and not merely to a vehicle that was being used for that purpose at any particular time.HELD: (1) The arguments of V were correct. Read as a whole the purpose of the Regulations was to ensure that certain categories of vehicle were subject to the tachograph requirements subject to specific exemptions. Whilst the narrow construction to legislation normally applicable in areas where criminal sanctions existed was in conflict with the purposive construction in European law it was not necessary to decide which approach prevailed. The Court based its conclusion on a combination of an analysis of the words in the Regulations, the purpose for which they had been promulgated and domestic legislation. (2) Accordingly, enforcement was not dependant on the purpose for which any journey was being undertaken.Appeal allowed.