Saturday, August 26, 2006

Speed Again

I commented here and here on the case of the police driver who drove at speeds of up to 159 mph on the road.

After the High Court overturned the PC's original acquittal the case was sent back to the magistrates' court, and re-tried before a different District Judge, DJ Peter Wallis, who is a leading expert on road traffic law, being an editor of Wilkinson's, which is the definitive handbook on traffic cases.

I defer to the learned DJ's knowledge of the law, and he was clearly acting within his discretion to impose an Absolute Discharge on the grounds that the officer has 'suffered enough' although comments in today's press suggest that is a controversial decision. What I do find hard to understand is that no penalty points or disqualification were imposed. If you look at the Bench Book that is used by all magistrates and District Judges at about page 162 of the pdf you will see that the entry point is custody; no matter, the DJ was entitled to see things differently, but also that a disqualification should be imposed, or, failing that, penalty points.

Although I have seen nothing about it in the press, the DJ must presumably have found Special Reasons not to endorse or disqualify. I have always understood that Special Reasons must apply to the offence and not to the offender, and must not be capable of amounting to a defence. That does seem odd in this case, and I look forward to finding out exactly what the DJ said.

The Police Federation have said that they intend to appeal the conviction. That will be interesting as it will be by way of a re-hearing in front of a Circuit Judge or Recorder, and two magistrates. There is a risk to the PC in this, because the penalties may be increased if the court so decides.

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