Director of Public Prosecutions v Watkins: QBD 1989

The offence in section 5 does not require proof that a defendant is likely to drive when accused of being in charge of a motor vehicle whilst unfit through drink or drugs: ‘In regard to that section two broad propositions are clear. First, the offence of being ‘in charge’ is the lowest in the scale of three charges relating to driving and drink. The two higher in the scale are driving and attempting to drive. Therefore a defendant can be ‘in charge’ although neither driving nor attempting to drive. Clearly however the mischief aimed at is to prevent driving when unfit through drink. The offence of being ‘in charge’ must therefore be intended to convict those who are not driving and have not yet done more than a preparatory act towards driving, but who in all the circumstances have already formed or may yet form the intention to drive the vehicle, and may try to drive it whilst still unfit.’ The words ‘in charge’ have been too broadly interpreted and applied.


Taylor LJ


[1989] QB 821


Road Traffic Act 1972 5


England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedSheldrake v Director of Public Prosecutions; Attorney General’s Reference No 4 of 2002 HL 14-Oct-2004
Appeals were brought complaining as to the apparent reversal of the burden of proof in road traffic cases and in cases under the Terrorism Acts. Was a legal or an evidential burden placed on a defendant?
Held: Lord Bingham of Cornhill said: . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Road Traffic

Updated: 30 April 2022; Ref: scu.218820