Director of Public Prosecutions v Alderton: Admn 25 Nov 2003

The defendant had been found sat in his car. He had been spinning its wheels, but not moving. The prosecutor appealed against dismissal of a charge of attempting to drive whilst under the influence of alcohol.
Held: The appeal succeeded. The defendant was driving. Although the car had not moved, his behaviour required him to have effective control over the movement of the vehicle, and his actions to prevent movement, and he was driving within the normal meaning of the word to drive. The justices erred in law in concluding that there had to be some movement of the vehicle before the respondent could be said to be driving it. Each case will depend on its own facts.
Harrison J said: ‘first, a test of degree of control over the movement and direction of the vehicle, there was a sufficient degree of control being exercised by the defendant, by ensuring that the handbrake prevented the movement of the vehicle despite the fact that the wheels were turning, to say that the defendant was driving the vehicle; that, applying, secondly, a test of whether what was being done fell within the ordinary meaning of ‘driving’, a person wheel spinning could properly be said to be ‘driving’ a vehicle within the ordinary meaning of that word, in that a person wheel spinning was driving a vehicle in such a way as to seek to ensure that it did not go forward whilst its wheels were turning; and that, therefore, the justices erred in law in concluding that there had to be some movement of the vehicle before the defendant could be said to be driving it, and the case would be remitted to the justices with a direction to convict.’


Harrison J


[2003] EWHC 2917 (Admin), Times 27-Nov-2003, [2004] RTR 23




Road Traffic Act 1988 5(1)(a)


CitedHoy v McFadyen HCJ 2000
The accused was charged with driving whilst disqualified. He had been in the driver’s seat and had started the engine. On turning off the engine the car lurched forward slightly. The handbrake was defective and would not hold the car on a slope. To . .
CitedRegina v MacDonagh CA 1974
The Road Traffic Acts do not define the word ‘drive’ and in its simplest meaning it refers to a person using the driver’s controls for the purpose of directing the movement of the vehicle. It matters not that the vehicle is not moving under its own . .
CitedAmes v MacLeod OHCS 1969
The accused, who was alleged to have been driving a motor car, had been walking beside it as it ran down a slight incline, and had steered it by placing his hand on the wheel. The car had run out of petrol.
Held: The question turned on whether . .
CitedBlayney v Knight 1975
The driver of a car left it momentarily, during which time the defendant went and sat in the driver’s seat. When the driver returned, he attempted to remove the defendant and, in the ensuing struggle, the defendant’s foot accidentally depressed the . .

Cited by:

CitedDirector of Public Prosecutions v Moore Admn 2-Mar-2010
The defendant appealed by case stated from his conviction of attempting to drive a motor vehicle on a public road, having consumed alcohol in excess of the prescribed limit on the same occasion. At the time he was said to have attempted to drive, . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Road Traffic

Updated: 08 June 2022; Ref: scu.189125