MOTOR LAW CASES - SPECIAL REASONS

Special reasons are mitigating factors that are in some way 'special,' to the facts of an offence.

 

If a special reason is found, then Magistrates can decide not to disqualify or not to give penalty points (or a reduced number).

A special reason is a reason which must be 'special,' to the facts of a particular offence (not the offender).  It is essentially a mitigating or extenuating reason - directly connected with the commission of the offence.  It must be a reason which can properly be taken into account by the sentencing court and must not be a circumstance peculiar to the offender.  A special reason is not a defence to the charge but it is highly persuasive upon sentence.

Special reasons can arise in relation to a number of different offences.

In relation to cases of driving with excess alcohol the following two areas have generated considerable caselaw.

  • driving in emergencies
  • inadvertent consumption of drink or drugs.

Where special reasons are put forward in cases of drink and driving, the court must consider the following factors - see Chatters v Burke [1986] 3 All ER 168:

  • the reason for driving;
  • the distance driven;
  • the manner of driving;
  • the condition of the vehicle driven;
  • whether or not it was the driver's intention to drive any further;
  • the road and traffic conditions at the relevant time; and
  • the possibility of danger to other road users (the most important factor).

In DPP v Bristow [1998] RTR 100 the Divisional Court stated that the key question justices should ask themselves when assessing if such special reasons existed on which they might decide not to disqualify was this: what would a sober, reasonable and responsible friend of the defendant, present at the time, but himself a non-driver and thus unable to help, have advised in the circumstances, to drive or not to drive?

In cases concerning no insurance an honestly held but mistaken belief (with good grounds for that belief) that there is insurance in place can amount to special reason. 

Where a defendant has made enquiry to ensure that he is insured and is assured that he is, when in fact he is not,  this is likely to amount to a special reason.

The onus of establishing special reasons lies on the defence, and the standard is that of the balance of probabilities.

If you are going to advance Special Reasons, you sould do so at the outset of the proceedings, so as to avoid any Prosecution suggestion that you failed to advance your position.  The Prosecution could try to convince the Court that failure to do so should be used as a point against your credibility later.

The categories of special reason are not limited or closed and are constantly expanding.

IIf you want to consider further whether you have a 'special reason,' please contact Coral Fitzgerald on 07790 356069.

 

 

 

 

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