Hadi Law

The recent case of Hannon v Crown Court Bristol involved the Judicial Review of a Crown Court decision on driving without due care and attention. The application focused on whether the judge’s interventions during the appeal hearing were excessive, to the extent they made the trial unfair. On 14 June 2020, the Claimant (H) was driving a Volkswagen van, towing a boat and trailer. At around 9.25 in the morning he was stopped by a police officer who questioned H’Claimant’s driving. H responded: “Sorry, I was just on cruise control. I wasn’t paying that much attention, to be honest.”

H was Charged with Driving Without Due Care and Attention.

In the Magistrates’ Court, H had obtained assistance from a retired police officer and produced evidence from a GPS tracking device installed in his van, which, it was said, showed the van’s speed for approximately 10 minutes before police stopped him. That tracking data showed that the van travelled at a maximum of 66 mph during the relevant period and averaged just over 60 mph. The Prosecution produced a video that indicated a speed between 66 and 72 miles per hour, although this only showed the minute or so before H was stopped. H was convicted and sentenced to a fine of £1000 and five penalty points.

H Appealed the Decision.

During the appeal, which was heard before a judge and two lay Magistrates, the judge made extensive interventions. H brought a Judicial Review application on the grounds that these interventions resulted in an unfair trial. In deciding whether to grant the Judicial Review application, the Court concluded that “the judge did overstep the bounds of proper judicial conduct and improperly descended too far into the arena” when questioning H. “The authorities are plain that a judge should not descend into the arena in such a way as to cross-examine a witness or a defendant. That is not the judge’s role. There can sometimes be a fine line between asking for clarification on a particular point that troubles the judge, and acting as a second prosecutor, but there were times here, in the exchanges set out in Appendix A, when the judge overstepped that boundary. There were times, indeed, when the tone and style of cross-examination is manifest (such as when, at page 80G-H of the transcript, the judge said “I’ll ask a third time and give you an opportunity, ok? This is the last time I’ll ask you and give you an opportunity.”)” However, the Court ruled that this did not make the trial unfair. Reading the transcript of the questioning, they concluded that H did not always give direct answers to the judge’s questions. Furthermore, they noted that H could see what was most troubling the judge and gave oblique and sometimes argumentative answers in order to avoid being drawn into making admissions. In addition, the Court stressed that the issue of H’s vehicle drifting across the lane was always a central point of the case and not a new theory introduced by the judge. H had ample opportunity to present his case and clarify any points, and his legal team did not raise the issue of unfairness at the time of the trial.

What is Judicial Review?

Judicial Review is where the Courts look at a decision made by a public body (for example the Home Office or the Court itself) and rule as to whether the public body or court was acting within its powers when making the decision. The Court’s role in Judicial Review is not to question whether the public body’s or court’s decision was correct or remake the decision, rather it is to examine the process by which the decision was reached to assess whether or not some flaw impaired it. A Judicial Review is a remedy of last resort, meaning all other legal options, such as appealing the decision, must be tried before an application can be made. The grounds for Judicial Review include:
  • Illegality
  • Irrationality
  • Procedural unfairness
  • Legitimate expectation
You must apply for Judicial Review and can only proceed with your case if the Court gives permission.

What should I do if I believe my motoring offence trial was unfair?

It is important to state at the outset that the judicial system in England and Wales is one of the fairest in the world and subject to strict principles and controls. However, as Hannon v Crown Court Bristol demonstrated, mistakes can be made. The best way to avoid the possibility of an unfair trial is to instruct an experienced Motoring Law Solicitor as soon as you receive notice that you must appear in court. If you represented yourself and you feel your trial was unfair, you can contact a Solicitor who will carefully analyse what happened at your trial and let you know if your Judicial Review application has merit. If they believe it has, they will ensure you have a strong application to present to the Court. For further information on any points mentioned in this article, please speak to our motoring offences law team on 01772 447000 or reach out to us on our seven-day-a-week WhatsApp helpline on 07869760533.

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