A Case Study
This case study involves speeding and careless driving. Michael had been seen by police officers speeding at over 40mph above the speed limit. They put the accelerator down and chased him. When he belatedly saw them approaching very quickly from behind he was hurried into an ill-judged manoeuvre which almost caused a high speed collision. Consequently, he was accused of both speeding and driving without due care and attention.
When Michael came to see me he had intended to plead, ‘Not Guilty’ to careless driving and to admit the speeding matter. Based upon his own account I advised him that he would probably be convicted of careless driving anyway. I explained that the sentence might well be markedly harsher if convicted after a trial (as opposed to admitting guilt by pleading ‘guilty’.) As Michael was desperate to minimise the length of any driving disqualification, as his job depended on his licence, he was anxious to make the right decision. He decided to follow my advice and admit both offences. I advised Michael of the evidence he needed to gather by way of mitigation in time for the court hearing.
Michael could reasonably have expected a driving disqualification in the region of 3 months (even after ‘Guilty’ pleas). Instead the court was persuaded simply to endorse his driving licence with penalty points! Michael could hardly believe his good fortune as this meant that he would be able to keep his licence and his job.
With careful consideration of plea, advance preparation for the hearing and persuasive representation in court surprisingly good results can sometimes be obtained.
‘’When I engaged Sunil I had no idea how the court process would work or what the merits of my case were. I would have admitted to the speeding and probably contested the careless driving allegation. It is only having received clear advice from Sunil when I met him that I understood my interests lay in admitting both allegations (even although my job depended on my driving licence). Due to the excellent advance advice and an equally assured handling of proceedings in court on the day (both were essential) Sunil was able to steer the court to the very sentence I would have asked for. I could not have asked for better. Thank you, Sunil.’
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A Case Study
Failing to Provide a Specimen of Breath
The Background Joseph is a professional of outstanding good character but for once in his life he went for a drink and took his car with him! He was stopped by the police and breathalysed at the roadside. Having provided a positive specimen he was arrested and conveyed to the police station to provide an evidential specimen. In his anxiety, he failed to provide the specimens of breath as required at the station and he was charged with this offence. Upon receiving my advice he decided to plead ‘Guilty’.
The Issue Joseph had underestimated the gravity of the offence he had committed (which I find to be common). He did not appreciate that, as well as the undoubted consequences to his career, that he faced, potentially, an immediate custodial sentence. He was devastated. He was anxious to know if there was anything that could be done to lessen the likelihood of such an outcome. We met in advance of the hearing and I advised him to obtain a reference which set out the potential professional consequences of conviction to his future career. When Joseph sent me the draft I suggested some important amendments (which were later made and signed off by the referee).
At Court Joseph and I were the first client and lawyer pairing to sign in at court. (I had advised Joseph to attend at 0855 hours before the doors opened so that it would be more likely that his case would be called on very early, if not first, in the list. I have found that it can be much more difficult to obtain optimum results for my clients when those earlier in the list have already been sentenced harshly for similar or even less serious cases). I then spoke with the prosecutor before the case was called on (the prosecutor summarises the case to the court and so how the case is outlined by him can be critical to sentence). I handed in the reference and then sought to persuade the court to deal with Joseph by way of a community penalty even though he appeared to have passed the ‘custody threshold’. Fortunately, the court obliged.
Conclusion Joseph’s principal concern had been to avoid an immediate custodial sentence. His secondary concern was to minimise the impact upon his career (in the sense that the lighter the penalty the less likely he would be referred to a professional disciplinary panel). Both of these aims were achieved. It is now likely that Joseph will be able to pursue his career with minimal disruption.
Joseph said, ‘From first to last Sunil gave me expert, straightforward guidance and advice without which it would have been easy to panic and make a poor decision. In any case such as this there are many factors to take into account. Until it’s all over and you have actually seen your case dealt with in court it is impossible to fully understand all of the relevant factors. I am so glad that I trusted and engaged Sunil to fight my corner. He clearly does have a full understanding of what is required to obtain the best possible result. The professionalism and care taken by Sunil was exemplary.’
A Case Study – Speeding
The Case – Dealing With a Speeding Summons
Henry was accused of speeding at 46mph in a 40 mph limit and had received a speeding summons. He needed his driving licence for his job. His employer’s insurers would not cover any of the drivers in the fleet who had more than 6 penalty points on their licences. Henry already had 6 penalty points on his licence and so was desperate to avoid a conviction.
When I met Henry I advised that he would almost certainly be convicted if he contested the case and that his penalty would be harsher if he were convicted following a trial rather than if he were sentenced following a ‘Guilty’ plea. Henry advised me that after he had received the speeding summons he had booked 7 days off work following on from his court hearing date.
At Medway Magistrates’ Court Henry changed his plea to ‘Guilty’. The court was advised that he had booked 7 days off work and that he would lose his job if he received any more penalty points. I asked the court to disqualify him (for 7 days only). The court considered the matter carefully and then elected simply to ban him for 7 days without imposing any penalty points! Thus the court enabled Henry to keep his job.
It is sometimes possible, if one knows the rules and a client’s circumstances well, to persuade a court to take an unusual course which will suit the client better than he could have imagined.
Henry said: ‘I was so happy to have engaged a genuine motor offence specialist barrister. I believe this made all the difference. The solicitors I had contacted clearly were not as knowledgeable as Sunil. An excellent grasp of the rules and a very persuasive manner in court enabled Sunil to prevent me from receiving a further 3 penalty points. Without Sunil’s expert advice and guidance I would have lost my job and the roof over my head. I am very grateful to him.’
A case of fixed penalty tickets and a well constructed exceptional hardship argument.
David had received 3 fixed penalty tickets for speeding in 30 mph zones (never at more than 35 mph). When he received a fourth notice for speeding in a 30 mph zone he knew he was at risk of a ban and he contacted me. I advised him that the ban would be for a minimum of 6 months. He was horrified and asked what could be done. This is his story.
David had started a new business as a publisher. He had one fellow director whose role was office based. David’s role was to travel to clients’ offices and deliver training classes. He lived in a remote part of Oxfordshire miles from the nearest railway stations. His children both attended special needs schools and had irregular timetables meaning they had to be driven to and from school. The business was in its infancy meaning that loss of his licence as a result of multiple fixed penalty tickets would be a terminal blow affecting not only David and his family but also that of his fellow director.
David gave me the background to his case over Skype (as it was not convenient to meet in person). I advised him to obtain letters from his children schools, from their social workers and medical practitioners and from his fellow director. I advised him of what the letters needed to cover and how they should be phrased for maximum effect upon the court.
This was that loss of licence would end the business which was not well enough established to survive the loss of David’s licence with equally damaging consequences to the family of the fellow director. Furthermore, David’s children, would not only have difficulty in attending school but also regular medical appointments with specialist doctors in Oxford. The letters that had been prepared in advance were also handed into the court.
Oxford Magistrates’ Court found that the consequences of a disqualification would indeed have included ‘exceptional hardship’ and exercised its discretion not to ban David at all. The potential consequences to innocent victims, such as the children in this case, is often accorded more weight by the court than the consequences to the motorist concerned. However, careful preparation and effective presentation paid off in this case.
David said that “loss of licence would have simply been a disaster for me and my family.”
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Penalty Points Disqualification and Exceptional Hardship
Stephen is a sole trader. He had committed two mobile phone offences and faced a 6 month penalty points disqualification and faced a totting up ban. He needed his licence for his job. This is his story.
Over a 15 year period, he had built up a business dealing in the removal of waste, mainly rubble and scrap metal, from building sites. He has a 3.5 ton van which he drives from building sites to tips where he off-loads the waste. He is paid by the load and makes a living by doing as many trips as possible. In this way, he provides for his wife and children all of whom are entirely dependent upon him. Several of his children participate in activities in the evenings and weekends including one of his teenage daughters who swims at county level.
To reach this level she must train many hours per week and had done so for many years. All of the children are driven to and from their activities by the parents. However, were Stephen to have lost his licence he would have lost his income. He could have been unable to pay his mortgage and look after his family. He would not have had the income to fund his children’s extra-curricular activities nor would he have been able to drive them there.
Having established the above I advised Stephen to obtain two letters addressed to the court, one from his accountant and one from his priest. I drafted both for them to consider and sign if they agreed with the contents (which they did as they were based upon instructions). The accountant verified that Stephen’s income only just covered his expenses. The other was from his priest, who knew the family well, which set out how both the wife and children would be very badly affected if Stephen were to lose his licence.
At court, having handed in the letters, I summarised the argument against a penalty points disqualification. This was, in brief, that loss of licence would mean he could not carry out his trade, that he knew no other trade, that his family would suffer, especially in the case of the teenage daughter who would have had to give up swimming, which, as she did it at elite level, would amount to ‘exceptional hardship’. Stephen was called to give evidence on oath, briefly, to the effect that what the court had heard was true.
Bromley Magistrates Court accepted that to ban Stephen would have caused him and his family ‘exceptional hardship’. The court is allowed to, and should, take account of suffering to innocent dependents and did so in this case. In a case such as this careful preparation and presentation of the arguments is key.
‘Thank you so much for saving me and my family from disaster.’