The court was asked whether a defendant who pleads guilty to an offence of driving with excess alcohol contrary to section 5(1)(a) of the Road Traffic Act 1988, and therefore admits that he was driving ‘over the limit’, can seek a Newton hearing to contest the amount by which the prosecution allege he was over the limit, as he contends, or whether the court is bound by the certificate of analysis of the specimen provided.
Held: The defendant’s appeal succeeded. Section 15(2) applies only to trials, and ‘the assumption in section 15(2) applies only to trials. Once the defendant has pleaded guilty, once he has put forward an arguable case to suggest that his breath alcohol figure at the time of driving was significantly lower than the certified reading, then the issue as to the actual excess at the time of his driving can and should be resolved by holding a Newton hearing.’
Sullivan LJ said: ‘It would be an affront to justice if a sentencer was compelled by reason of a statutory assumption to sentence a convicted defendant on a basis that was not merely known to the sentencer to be false but was known to be falsely adverse to the defendant.’
Road Traffic, Criminal Practice
Updated: 01 November 2021; Ref: scu.381473