Hughes, Regina v: SC 31 Jul 2013

Uninsured Driver Not Guilty of Causing Death

The appellant though an uninsured driver, was driving without fault when another vehicle veered across the road. The other driver died from his injuries, and the appellant convicted of causing his death whilst uninsured. At trial he succeeded in arguing that he had not caused the death, but the prosecutor’s appeal had succeeded.
Held: The appeal succeeded. ‘This is a statute creating a penal provision, and one of very considerable severity. The offence created is a form of homicide. To label a person a criminal killer of another is of the greatest gravity. The defendant is at risk of imprisonment for a substantial term. Even if, at least in a case of inadvertent lack of insurance or venial lack of licence, a sentence of imprisonment were not to follow, the defendant would be left with a lifelong conviction for homicide which would require disclosure in the multiple situations in which one’s history must be volunteered, such as the obtaining of employment, or of insurance of any kind. Nor should the personal burden or the public obloquy be underestimated; to carry the stigma of criminal conviction for killing someone else, perhaps a close relative, perhaps as in the kind of situation referred to in para 19 an innocent child, is no small thing. A penal statute falls to be construed with a degree of strictness in favour of the accused. It is undoubtedly open to Parliament to legislate to create a harsh offence or penalty, just as it is open to it to take away fundamental rights, but it is not to be assumed to have done so unless that interpretation of its statute is compelled, and compelled by the language of the statute itself. The rule of construction which applies to penal legislation, and a fortiori to legislation which carries the penalty of imprisonment, is not identical to, but is somewhat analogous to, the principle of statutory interpretation known as the principle of legality.’
‘ in order to give effect to the expression ’causes . . death . . by driving’ a defendant charged with the offence under section 3ZB must be shown to have done something other than simply putting his vehicle on the road so that it is there to be struck. It must be proved that there was something which he did or omitted to do by way of driving it which contributed in a more than minimal way to the death. The question therefore remains what can or cannot amount to such act or omission in the manner of driving. ‘

Lord Neuberger, President, Lord Mance, Lord Kerr, Lord Hughes, Lord Toulson
[2013] UKSC 56, [2013] WLR(D) 324, [2013] 1 WLR 2461, [2013] 4 All ER 613, [2013] RTR 31, [2014] 1 Cr App R 6, [2014] Crim LR 234, UKSC 2011/0240
Bailii, WLRD, Bailii Summary, SC Summary, SC
Road Traffic Act 1988 3ZB
England and Wales
CitedPlanton v Director of Public Prosecutions QBD 6-Jun-2001
The defendant was found by police sat in the driving seat of a car parked on an isthmus which would be submerged at high tide. The engine was running, and the car lights were on. He failed a breath test, but argued at trial that since the car had . .
CitedMeeking, Regina v CACD 29-Feb-2012
The defendant passenger pulled on the handbrake at speed and caused a crash which her husband, the driver could not prevent. She was charged with manslaughter. . .
CitedWilliams, Regina v CACD 2-Nov-2010
The offence of causing death by driving while unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured, is committed if the driver is unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured and if the driving is a cause of death in the sense that it was ‘more than negligible or de . .
CitedGaloo Ltd and Others v Bright Grahame Murray CA 21-Dec-1993
It is for the Court to decide whether the breach of duty was the cause of a loss or simply the occasion for it by the application of common sense. A breach of contract, to found recovery, must be shown to have been ‘an ‘effective’ or ‘dominant’ . .
CitedRegina v Kennedy HL 17-Oct-2007
The defendant had been convicted of manslaughter. He had supplied a class A drug to a friend who then died taking it. The House was asked ‘When is it appropriate to find someone guilty of manslaughter where that person has been involved in the . .
CitedRegina v Marsh CACD 19-Jul-1996
Damage caused after the taking of a car need not be at the fault of the driver defendant for the offence of aggravated vehicle taking to have been committed by him. The sole requirement of the subsection was that the driving of the vehicle should . .
CitedRegina v Secretary of State for The Home Department Ex Parte Simms HL 8-Jul-1999
Ban on Prisoners talking to Journalists unlawful
The two prisoners, serving life sentences for murder, had had their appeals rejected. They continued to protest innocence, and sought to bring their campaigns to public attention through the press, having oral interviews with journalists without . .

Cited by:
CitedTaylor, Regina v CACD 9-Apr-2014
. .
CitedTaylor, Regina v SC 3-Feb-2016
No Liability Extension on Taking Without Consent
Appeal by leave of the Court of Appeal on a point of law arising in the course of the trial of the appellant for aggravated vehicle taking, contrary to section 12A of the Theft Act 1968. The defendant had taken a vehicle without the owner’s consent, . .
CitedLane and Another, Regina v SC 11-Jul-2018
The defendants were to be tried for allegedly sending funds abroad to support terrorism. The court now considered the meaning of the phrase ‘reasonable cause to suspect’ in the context of the anticipated use of the funds: ‘Does it mean that the . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Road Traffic

Leading Case

Updated: 02 November 2021; Ref: scu.514219