Our Expert, Mr Neil Salter, recently attended court as part of the final phase of a long running case. The charge brought and the circumstances of the alleged offence make interesting reading. Below is his synopsis of the events;
Having arrived at Court, I liaised with the defence barrister Naomi Rees. The first point addressed by the defence was the title of ‘off-duty Special Constable’. When not performing duty as a SC, that person reverts to being a normal member of the public. It transpired that the SC was a doctor of medicine so was ‘Doctor’ rather than ‘Mr’ in the witness box.
It also became apparent that the positions of the vehicles marked on the plan by the witness and which formed the basis of the prosecution evidence, was not chronologically co-ordinated or linked to the traffic light signal sequence so this diagram served no evidential purpose whatsoever. Similarly, it was confirmed that there was no evidence offered regarding the position of the vehicles in relation to the stop line, when the traffic lights changed from amber to red,
The defence were able to highlight the discrepancies and contradictions within the evidence as a result of this. Despite this, the Bench formed the view that the witness evidence was reliable and convicted accordingly. An appeal against conviction was immediately lodged.
20th April 2012 Southampton Crown Court
On arriving at Court and after liaising with the client, the defence barrister Mark Sullivan and the prosecution barrister, it became apparent that the only prosecution witness had not been warned to attend Court for the appeal. The matter was adjourned.
8th June 2012 Southampton Crown Court
After arriving at Court and liaising again with the client and Mr Sullivan, Mr Sullivan discussed the matter with the CPS prosecuting barrister. The common view taken by both barristers was that a successful prosecution was unlikely, that the Crown would not contest the appeal. The original conviction at Magistrates Court was quashed.
The case in overview;
The prosecution evidence consisted of an uncorroborated witness statement accompanied by a photocopied sketch plan which had been annotated with vehicle positions. I considered that this evidence was incomplete and was surprised that the prosecution was being undertaken.
On cross examination at Court, it became apparent that the positions of the vehicles shown on the sketch plan were neither simultaneous nor bore any relation to the traffic light signal phasing sequence. Crucially, no evidence had been offered regarding the position of the vehicles in relation to the relevant stop line at the instant that the traffic light changed from amber to red.
Despite this, the Magistrates Bench formed the view that the witness evidence was reliable and convicted accordingly. An immediate appeal against conviction was lodged.
At the higher Crown Court, after an initial mix-up which led to the witness not being warned, both prosecution and defence barristers took the view that on the basis of the presented evidence, there was no realistic prospect of a successful prosecution. The conviction was immediately quashed.
Had this conviction been held, the client would have received a further three penalty points within the first 2 years of holding a driving licence. Consequently his licence would have been revoked. The fact that there was no evidence that any offence had been committed meant that the client did not suffer this unjust penalty.