Drink Drive Conviction Quashed

Ian Hallett of New Costessey was convicted of drink driving in 2009 having been found to be twice over the legal limit. He accepted that he was over the legal limit for driving but his defence at the magistrates’ court was that he was not driving on a public road.

He was found guilty by the magistrates and appealed his conviction at the High Court. His appeal was heard on the 8th March 2011 and Mrs Justice Rafferty allowed the appeal and ordered the magistrates to acquit him. The issue for the appeal was not the accepted level of alcohol but whether the unmade road on which he was driving fell within the definition of a public road.

He and local residents gave evidence that in 16 years they had never seen members of the public using the road and that it was a service road which was not used by the public. He said that the road had a huge pot hole in it and that members of the public would be stupid to use it as it would damage their car.

Mrs Justice Rafferty ruled that there was no evidence of actual public use before the magistrates and that a reasonable tribunal could not have found that the service road was a road or public place as defined by the Road Traffic Act1988. Under the Act a road means any highway or road including footpaths, bridleways and bridges to which the public has access. A public place can also include a field or enclosure to which the public has access to; for example, a field at the rear of licensed premises used for the purpose of parking cars has been held to be a public place.

The question of whether the place where the offence is alleged to have taken place is a road or a public place is a question of fact for the magistrates to decide depending on whether the public had access to it at the time the offence was committed.

If you want to see the law on drink driving, check out our factsheet – available shortly.

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