Taylor v Rajan; 2 Jan 1974

References: [1974] RTR 304, [1974] 1 All ER 1087, [1974] QB 424
Coram: Lord Widgery Chief Justice
The defendant had consumed alcohol so that the alcohol level was 102 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood. An appeal was heard as to whether there existed special reasons for not disqualifying him.
Held: The court considered when it should find special reasons allowing it a discretion not to disqualify a driver who was subject to an automatic disqualification for driving with excess alcohol. The test of whether the circumstances exist to find special reasons is an objective one. A higher reading would make the exercise of the discretion more difficult.
Lord Widgery CJ said: ‘This is not the first case in which the court had had to consider whether driving in an emergency can justify a conclusion that there are special reasons for not disqualifying the driver. If a man, in the well-founded belief that he will not drive again, puts his car into the garage, goes into his house, and has a certain amount of drink in the belief that he is not going to drive again, and if thereafter there is an emergency which requires him, in order to deal with it, to take his car out despite his intention to leave it in the garage, then that is a situation which can in law amount to a special reason for not disqualifying a driver.
On the other hand, justices who are primarily concerned with dealing with this legislation, should approach the exercise of the resultant discretion with great care. The mere fact that the facts disclosed a special reason does not mean that the driver is to escape disqualification as a matter of course. There is a very serious burden on the justices, even when a special reason had been disclosed, to decide whether in their discretion they should decline to disqualify in a particular case. The justices should have very much in mind that if a man deliberately drives when he knows he has consumed a considerable quantity of drink, he presents a potential source of danger to the public which no private crisis can lightly excuse.
One of the most important matters which justices have to consider in the exercise of this discretion is whether the emergency — and I call it such for want of a more convenient word — was sufficiently acute to justify the driver taking his car out. The Justices should only exercise the discretion in favour of the driver in clear and compelling circumstances. They ought to remember that the special reasons which they are considering and which are relevant are not the reasons which caused the driver to take his car on the road . . . The Justices therefore must consider the whole of the circumstances. They must consider the nature and degree of the crisis or emergency which has caused the defendant to take the car out. They must consider whether there was alternative means of transport or methods of dealing with the crisis other than and alternative to the use by the defendant of his own car. They should have regard to the manner in which the defendant drove, because if he committed traffic offences such as excessive speed or driving without due care and attention this again is a consideration which tells against his having discretion exercised in his favour, and they should generally have regard to whether the defendant acted responsibly or otherwise.’
The test for the existence of special reasons for not disqualifying is an objective one and not a subjective one, and ‘Last but by no means least, if the alcohol content of the defendant’s body is very high, that is a very powerful reason for saying that discretion should not be exercised in his favour. Indeed, if the alcohol content exceeds 100 milligrams per hundred millilitres of blood, the Justices should rarely exercise the discretion in favour of the defendant driver.’
This case cites:

  • Cited – Jacobs -v- Reid ([1974] RLT 71)
    The test for whether magistrates may find special reasons for not disqualifying a driver is not a subjective one as to what the defendant thought. . .

This case is cited by: