QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
THE ADMINISTRATIVE COURT
B e f o r e :
|DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC PROSECUTIONS||(CLAIMANT)|
|MANJIT SINGH UBHI||(DEFENDANT)|
Smith Bernal Wordwave Limited
190 Fleet Street London EC4A 2AG
Tel No: 020 7404 1400 Fax No: 020 7831 8838
(Official Shorthand Writers to the Court)
MR D WATSON (instructed by Patience, Claridge and Burrowes) appeared on behalf of the DEFENDANT
Tuesday, 11 February 2003
Crown Copyright ©
"Her scream roused the other 3 occupants in the flat, who went to her aid. The respondent stayed with his sister and shouted for someone to call for an ambulance. Manoj [the boyfriend] used his mobile phone to ring for an ambulance, could not get a signal upstairs so went downstairs to the communal area to try again.
"(b) Manoj admitted that he did see the telephone box but was in too much of a panic to use the land line to call the ambulance. He did not try to knock on any of the other students' doors to seek assistance because he knew that most of the students had gone home for the long bank holiday weekend. Although others gave evidence that they thought some students had stayed, they thought most had gone home for the weekend."
Then they go on at 3(e):
"5 minutes later Manoj returned and said he could not get an ambulance. He had tried the telephone number for the hospital doctor but got no response. He had also tried to get a taxi. The first firm did not answer and the second said there was a 30 minute wait. At that stage the respondent took the decision to drive due to the concern that he felt for his sister. He had suffered a punctured lung in the past and she seemed to be in more discomfort than that, as she was finding it hard to breathe and was screaming in pain."
The justices then found that the respondent and others had made their way towards the hospital, were stopped by police, and one of the police officers noted that the sister was in the front passenger seat:
"She seemed to be in distress, complaining of chest pains and claiming she was unable to breathe.
"(i)... the respondent seemed generally concerned for his sister."
An ambulance was requested and the sister drove the car away.
"We were of the opinion that special reasons should be found not to disqualify the respondent from driving.
"Our reasons were:
"(a) The respondent acted in duress of circumstances.
"(b) The respondent believed that there was a genuine medical emergency.
"(c) The respondent did explore other ways of getting help in that he delegated responsibility and believed it to have been carried out.
"(d) Section Officer Black called an ambulance as soon as he saw the distressed lady in the car."
"There is a very serious burden upon the justices, even when a special reason has 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 to the road are the reasons which are urged them as a court as justifying a failure to disqualify. The justices therefore must consider the whole of the circumstances. They must consider the nature and degree of the crisis or emergency which had caused the defendant to take the car out. They must consider with particular care whether there were 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."
He then reminds them to look at the quality of the driving and continues:
"In making this assessment this court said in Jacobs v Reid  RLT 71, the test is not a subjective one. The justices do not try to put themselves in the position of the driver with drink in his body and ask if it was a reasonable decision for him to take. The matter must be considered objectively, and the quality and gravity of the crisis must be assessed in that way."
" ... first, was the accused, or may he have been, impelled to act as he did because as a result of what he reasonably believed to be the situation he had good cause to fear that otherwise death or serious physical injury would result? Second, if so, may a sober person of reasonable firmness, sharing the characteristics of the accused, have responded to that situation by acting as the accused acted?"
The defence and special reasons share the issue of whether, objectively, the defendant was impelled to act in the way he did by the emergency. The justices failed to consider what a reasonable person would have done, faced with the screaming which roused them from the sister falling in the bathroom. The only finding was that the respondent believed there was a genuine medical emergency, see 7B. But there is no finding as to whether a reasonable person would have acted that way.
"(b) Were we correct in law to find that a genuine medical emergency had arisen when the evidence from the person for whom treatment had been sought indicated that she was released from hospital within an hour of her arrival, with no more than advice and pain killers, and that further treatment was not required?"
I answer that the correct question is whether a reasonable person faced with those facts would have treated it as a genuine medical emergency. The answer to that question will, in part, be dependent upon what in fact was discovered when she was treated in hospital, but, for the reasons I have given, the question does not properly grapple with the real defects in the decision of the justices.
"(c) Were we correct in law to find special reasons when the defendant himself made no inquiry to establish alternatives to him driving?"
The answer is that the justices were not correct in law to find special reasons without examining and making findings as to whether a reasonable person would have made further enquiries to establish alternatives.
"(d) Were we correct in law to find special reasons when not all available alternatives to the defendant driving had been explored by him, or others on his behalf?"
It is not clear to me from that question what other alternatives they are referring to, but it does seem to me that it is vital that any justices look at the issue as to whether a reasonable person would have made enquiries as to alternatives, and as to whether that reasonable person would have discovered that there were alternatives available. Should there, in fact, have been alternatives available, it will be rare indeed that special reasons could be found because the driver had not himself established the availability of those other alternatives.
"(e) Were we correct in law to find special reasons when following his arrest for the offence, the defendant's girlfriend, who had accompanied him in the car, was allowed and encouraged to drive the car away by a police officer?"
My answer is that I do not think that has any relevance in this case, bearing in mind that, as far as one can see, the girlfriend had been drinking just as much as the defendant.
"(f) Were we correct in law to find that the defendant himself did not need to make any inquiry as to the alternatives to him driving but was entitled to rely on what someone else had told him?"
For the reasons I have already given, there may be circumstances in which a driver need not make an inquiry himself. It will all depend upon what the reasonable person would have done, faced with the situation that he was presented with, and what inquiries he would have made of the person to whom he had delegated the task of seeking help.