Case study: sentence reduction
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.