Supreme Court

Regina v Taylor (Jack)

[2016] UKSC 5

2015 Dec 15; 2016 Feb 3

Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury PSC, Baroness Hale of Richmond DPSC, Lord Mance, Lord Sumption, Lord Carnwath, Lord Hughes and Lord Toulson JJSC

Road traffic — Aggravated vehicle taking — Accident causing fatal injury — Defendant driving vehicle without owner’s consent — Rider of scooter killed in collision with vehicle — No evidence defendant at fault — Defendant charged with aggravated vehicle taking — Whether necessary for prosecution to prove fault in relation to driving of vehicle — Whether driving with excess alcohol constituting such fault — Theft Act 1968 (c 60), s 12A (as inserted by Aggravated Vehicle-Taking Act 1992 (c 11) s 1(1)(3) and amended by Criminal Justice Act 2003 (c 44), s 285(1))

Facts

The defendant borrowed a truck from a friend. It belonged to the friend’s employer who had not given consent for the defendant to drive it. While driving round a bend on a narrow country lane the truck collided with a scooter coming from the opposite direction causing the immediate death of the scooter’s rider. The defendant was found to be over the drink drive limit, but the Crown accepted that there was no evidence that the manner of his driving had been at fault or was open to criticism. He was charged with, inter alia, aggravated vehicle taking causing injury to another person contrary to section 12A(1)(2)(b) of the Theft Act 1968, as inserted by section 1(1)(3) of the Aggravated Vehicle-Taking Act 1992 and amended by section 285(1) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003. As a preliminary matter the trial judge ruled that, applying the Supreme Court ruling that a driver could not be guilty of the offence of causing death by driving without insurance under section 3ZB of the Road Traffic Act 1988, as inserted, unless his driving had been at fault, he would direct the jury that they had to find an element of fault in the manner of the defendant’s driving before he could be convicted of aggravated vehicle taking. Applying earlier authority from the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division), relating directly to the offence of aggravated vehicle taking, the Court of Appeal reversed that ruling but granted permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Held

Held, appeal allowed. In the case of section 12A(2)(b), it was implicit in the requirement that the accident had occurred “owing to the driving of the vehicle”, that there must have been something wrong with the driving. The driving could not be said to have caused the accident if it merely explained how the vehicle came to be in the place where the accident occurred. The relevant fault was the fault in the driving which was necessary to establish the causal connection between the driving and the accident. The fact that the defendant had excess alcohol in his blood established that he was guilty of the summary offence under section 5(1)(a) of the Road Traffic Act 1988, but not that such circumstance had anything to do with the accident. The applicable test was that there had to have been at least some act or omission in the control of the vehicle, which involved some element of fault, whether amounting to careless/inconsiderate driving or not, and which contributed in some more than minimal way to the death.

Cases considered

R v Hughes (Michael) [2013] UKSC 56; [2013] 1 WLR 2461, SC(E) applied.

R v Marsh [1997] 1 Cr App R 67, CA overruled.

Appellate history

Decision of the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) [2014] EWCA Crim 829 reversed.

Appearances

Andrew McGee (instructed by Trinity Advocates, Exeter) for the defendant.

Steven Kovats QC and Duncan Atkinson (instructed by Crown Prosecution Services, Appeals Unit) for the Crown.

Reported by: Ms B L Scully, Barrister

© 2016. The Incorporated Council of Law Reporting for England and Wales.