Regina v Morris: 1972

Whether the particular facts of a case amount to an accident is a question of law. In a case of disputed facts under s2(2) of the 1967 Act it is for the jury to decide the facts and apply to the facts found the judge’s direction as to the meaning of accident.
Lord Widgery CJ:’We would add only one other point on this aspect of the case. It is now recognised and has been recognised in a number of instances that there will be cases under section 2(2) where the primary facts are not in dispute and when the question of accident or no becomes a matter of pure law, in the same way that cases sometimes arise where the primary facts are not in dispute and in which the question of whether a person is driving or not becomes a pure matter of law. We think that in this case the deputy chairman would not have erred if he had directed the jury in that sense. We do not criticise him for not taking that line – he may well have been wise in seeking the verdict of the jury on the facts before them – but cases of this kind, where there really is no factual dispute left and the matter is one of law only, are cases in which the presiding judge can, if he thinks fit, give a ruling to that effect. If there is a dispute as to fact the issue must of course be left to the jury.’
As to the meaning of ‘accident’: ‘Several attempts at definitions of the words ‘accident’ have been made in the course of argument. (he referred to Fenton v J Thorley and Co Ltd) Sachs LJ in the course of the argument supplied an alternative, with which the other members of the court agree, in which he suggested that ‘accident’ in the present context means an unintended occurrence which has an adverse physical result. We think that it would be wrong to construe ‘accident’ in this context too narrowly. We are conscious of the fact that this is an interference with the liberty of the subject, but the Act does not make the having of an accident an offence, it merely provides it as a qualification for the taking of a breath test, and the underlying conception of section 2(2) is that if some unintended occurrence which has adverse physical result arises out of the presence of motor vehicle on a road, that is a fair basis on which a police officer may request the provision of a specimen of breath. Such an occurrence is one in which, prima facie at any rate, the circumstances of the occurrence and of the driver involved in it deserves consideration by authority, and accordingly we think that the definition suggested by Sachs LJ is one which fits the intention of Parliament and will not open the door unduly widely to the suggestion that random breath tests can be taken in purported consequence of it.’


Lord Widgery CJ, Sachs LJ


[1972] RTR 201


Road Safety Act 1967 2(2)


England and Wales


CitedRegina v Seward 1970
The section in the 1967Act required as a precondition to a request for a breath specimen that an accident had occurred. The defendant complained that this was an issue of fact, but had been decided by the deputy chairman and not the jury.
CitedFenton v J Thorley and Co Ltd HL 1903
A workman who ruptured himself by an act of over-exertion in trying to turn a wheel was held to have suffered an injury ‘by accident.’ The act of turning the wheel was not in itself an accident. But the injury which the man sustained while carrying . .

Cited by:

CitedCurrie, Regina v CACD 26-Apr-2007
The defendant appealed his conviction for dangerous driving. The failure of the police to serve him with a notice of intended prosecution invalidated the conviction. The police replied that there was no need for such a notice because there had been . .
CitedChief Constable of West Midlands Police v Billingham 1979
Bridge LJ considered the meaning of the word ‘accident’, and, after saying that there had been many authorities for different stautory and contractual contexts, said: ‘It is, in my judgment, a word which has a perfectly well understood meaning in . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Road Traffic

Updated: 17 May 2022; Ref: scu.251521