Milton v. CPS [2007] High Court of Justice (QBD)

If you are accused of Dangerous Driving, can the Court look at your level of driving skill when deciding whether or not you have driven dangerously?

Brief Facts of the Case:

PC Milton was at the time of the alleged offences a Police Officer serving with the West Mercia Constabulary.  He is a Grade 1 advanced police driver.

On the night of the 4th/5th December 2003 PC Milton drove an unmarked Vauxhall Vectra police vehicle during the early hours of the morning on the M54 at speeds of 148mph; on the A5 trunk road at an average speed of 114mph; and in a built up area at speeds of in excess of 60mph.  His reason for driving at these speeds were to familiarise himself with the vehicle, in accordance with his training as an advanced police driver.

All speeds were so far above the speed limits that both the speeding offences and dangerous driving charges were proceeded with.

Brief History of the Case:

The speeding offences were successfully defended on the basis that the police vehicle was being driven for police purposes.  That then left the charge of dangerous driving to be considered.  Originally, PC Milton was acquitted of dangerous driving, but the Director of Public Prosecutions appealed the Court’s decision.

The DPP’s Appeal was successful and the case was re-heard in the Magistrates’ Court.  Following that hearing, PC Milton was convicted of dangerous driving.

Following the re-hearing, PC Milton appealed to the High Court for a decision to be made on whether his driving ability could be taken into account when the Court decided whether or not his driving was dangerous.

The High Court’s Decision:

The key part of the Law that the Court considered is:

‘regard shall be had not only to the circumstances of which [the driver] could be expected to be aware but also to any circumstances shown to have been within the knowledge of the accused.’

The question that was posed was:  Is someone’s superior driving skills a circumstance within their knowledge which should be taken into account?  The position of the Law previously was a definite ‘No’.  All the Court would look at is what the normal careful and prudent driver would think of the standard of driving.

The Court decided in this case that the fact that PC Milton was a Grade 1 advanced police driver was a circumstance that could be taken into account.  Effectively, the Court is saying is that some driving manoeuvres/conduct may be considered dangerous for a driver of ‘normal’ skill, but that it may not be the case for a driver of extreme ‘special skill’.  The Court did make a point of stating that this decision is not limited to police officers.  A civilian with equivalent high levels of driver training would be entitled to bring to the Court’s attention evidence of their superior driving skills if charged with dangerous driving.  It is then for the Court to decide whether that has any bearing on the individual facts of the case.

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