Jul 6 2020

Case report: emergency

CT had been stopped by police driving her car away from her home in the early hours of the morning. Police suspected she was under the influence of alcohol and arrested her. At the police station, CT provided a breath specimen that was significantly above the drink driving limit and was charged with drink driving.

CT accepted that she had been drinking. She said that she had been at a bar close to her home with friends in the evening. She had driven there as she was late leaving work so drove straight to the bar. She had intended to walk home; however, as she left the bar another woman who is known to CT had approached her and began threatening her. This caused CT to fear for her safety, so she got into her car and drove away. She did not drive directly home as the assailant would have seen the direction she travelled and been able to find her car quickly since home was so close by.

What we did

CT instructed us that her goal was to keep her driving licence.

We advised that CT could rely on duress as a defence; however, it would probably fail because even on her account the evidence of a threat to life or of really serious harm to her was weak. Nonetheless, we advised that she should proceed with hat defence on the basis that even if it failed we would have established the factual basis to argue that CT should avoid the driving ban because of the emergency situation she faced. Pleading not guilty would also enable us to force secondary disclosure from the Crown and thus obtain evidence of previous incidents with this other woman.

CT accepted our advice.

We prepared a Defence Statement that set out CT’s defence and sought disclosure of any police reports of previous incidents where the other woman had attacked CT. Because CT had pleaded not guilty the disclosure process set out in the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996 was triggered and the prosecutor was forced to hand over the police reports. Had CT pleaded guilty and simply relied on the emergency special reason we would have had to rely on the goodwill of the prosecutor to provide this material.

We were also able to obtain a copy of an injunction made by the civil courts requiring the other woman to stay away from CT.

What happened at court?

The prosecutor called their witnesses who gave evidence. In cross examination, one of the police officers agreed that CT had mentioned that she was driving to escape a threat, which had not been mentioned in the PC’s witness statement.

CT gave evidence, which helped her claim for the emergency special reason but that undermined her duress defence in that she revealed she had been with a man when she saw the other woman – something she had not disclosed to us previously. It was clear from the judge’s raised eyebrows to our advocate that she was not impressed by this revelation.

Nonetheless, we presented the evidence of the previous incidents despite some objections from the Crown. This was a surprising position for them to take given the material came directly from them as part of their disclosure, which must have meant that the prosecutor at some point thought the evidence was both relevant and supported the defence case. In any event, the judge allowed the evidence to be adduced.

What was the outcome?

We advised CT at the conclusion of the trial that she would be convicted given her revelation in the witness box that she was with a man who would have helped her had anything happened.

The judge duly did convict CT; however, she immediately recognised that the evidence raised in the trial supported the emergency special reason and declined to impose a driving disqualification.

CT achieved the result she instructed us to get for her and was very happy with the outcome. If you are facing a driving offence in the criminal courts, then feel free to call us on 020 8242 4440 or send us a message via our contact page to see how we can help you avoid a driving disqualification too.