Case study: sentence reduction

Sign outside Oxford Magistrates' Court

Oxford Magistrates’ Court

Nick Diable represented Mr S before the magistrates’ court where S was accused of drink driving.  He had been seen driving by the police, made admissions to drinking when stopped and provided a positive specimen of breath at the police station.  He instructed us that he wanted to plead guilty but would like some help reducing the length of the disqualification.

S explained that he had no memory of getting in the car and could not explain why he decided to drive.  He remembers deciding that driving was a bad idea and so decided to pull over.  He went through a red traffic light and stopped immediately beyond the junction.  A passing police car saw him jump the light and came to investigate.

When tested, S had 74mg of alcohol in 100ml of breath, putting him more than twice over the drink driving limit.  This would mean a driving disqualification of up to 22 months for a first time offender.

We advised S to obtain character references to show that he is normally a responsible person who would not normally commit a criminal offence.  We discussed the sort of people who S should approach and the sort of things they should say.  But, S felt unable to approach anybody because he was genuinely ashamed that he had got behind the wheel while over the drink driving limit and couldn’t bring himself to tell people outside his immediate family.

In court, Nick focused on the short distance S had driven and explained that while S had made the decision to drive he had, to his credit, also decided to stop within 50 yards of setting off.  Although he jumped the red light, he did so in the knowledge that the junction was clear and there was no danger to other road users.  Nick also discussed S’s reaction to the offence he committed and that he was genuinely remorseful and ashamed of his actions – so much so that he had not even been able to obtain evidence that would assist his defence before the court.

Nick went onto make submissions to the court that they treat the driving disqualification as part of the sentence and reduce the length of the disqualification to reflect S’s guilty plea under section 144 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003.  This is often a contentious argument because many lawyers take the (incorrect) view that a driving disqualification is not part of the sentence but is an ancillary order and so cannot be reduced in light of a guilty plea.

In this case, the magistrates’ accepted Nick’s submissions and agreed that the disqualification should be reduced both in light of the guilty plea and following the mitigation put forward by Nick on S’s behalf.

As a result, S was fined and disqualified from driving for 12 months.  He was allowed to take the drink driving rehabilitation course, which will further reduce his driving ban to 9 months instead of the starting point of up to 22 months.

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Recent case: reducing the disqualification

In this short post, we look at how an in-depth knowledge of motoring law can reduce your driving disqualification.

Mr S was seen by police to jump a red traffic light while travelling at speed in the early hours of the morning, he was stopped and found to be over the limit.  At the police station, his breath sample showed that he had 85 microgrammes of alcohol per 100ml of breath – the legal limit in England and Wales is 35 – and was charged with drink driving.

The sentencing guidelines indicate a starting point for the disqualification of around 22 months for such a high reading, especially where the offence is aggravated by poor driving, such as jumping a red light and speeding.

At court, Mr S agreed that he would plead guilty and instructed Nick Diable to mitigate on his behalf and reduce the length of the disqualification, if possible.

Mr S works in an office but drives out to meet clients at least three times a week.  His employer had agreed to keep him on despite the inevitable loss of his driving licence; however, as his ability to visit clients would be reduced this was likely to impact on his ability to sell to clients and thus reduce his income as he works on commission.

Having taken instructions, it was clear that this was a situation to deploy the case of R v Geale, which was a case decided by the Court of Appeal in 2012.  Geale involved a coach driver whose lapse in concentration resulted in the death of a 10 year old boy.  The court ruled that “… as a professional driver a disqualification will impose a particular financial hardship upon [Geale]…”.  They decided then to reduce the length of the disqualification.

Although Mr S was not a professional driver, the disqualification would nonetheless impose a “particular financial hardship” upon.  Nick therefore invited the court to consider this case and set out how the disqualification would impact upon him.

After hearing the mitigation, the court agreed to reduce the length of the disqualification from a 22 month starting point to 16 months.  They also allowed Mr S to take the drink driving rehabilitation course, which further reduced the length of his ban to 12 months.  In addition, the magistrates reduced the fine from £510 to £340.

If you find yourself in need of expert legal advice on a drink driving matter then do not hesitate to contact the Oxford Drink Driving Solicitor on 01869 866 490.