Alan Cameron | Senior Associate

Buchan v PF, Perth

In a recent criminal Sheriff Appeal Court case, Sheriff Principal Stephen QC issued an opinion on  a case involving a driver who  had pled guilty to charges of driving while under the influence of alcohol, contrary to section 5(1)(a) of the Road Traffic Act 1988.

In the original Sheriff’s decision, the driver received a sentence of one year’s imprisonment and he was disqualified from driving for nine years.  The court also ordered his vehicle seized. However, to reflect the driver’s entitlement to a one third discount in his sentence under section 196 of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995, the sentence was fixed at eight months of imprisonment and a disqualification from driving for six years.

In the criminal Sheriff Appeal Court, the Sheriff Principal reversed the original imprisonment sentence as unlawful.  The Sheriff Principal did so in the appeal decision because the maximum sentence by law that is available in the circumstances would be six months rather than a year.  Therefore, after the reduction in the sentence entitled to the driver, the period of imprisonment would be four months.

However, despite having his custodial sentence reduced by the Sheriff Principal, the driver’s disqualification from driving was actually increased under the provisions of section 35C the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988.  Under this law, in certain cases where a sentence of imprisonment and a period of disqualification from driving is imposed on someone convicted of driving offences, the period of disqualification can actually become extended by the equivalent to half of the period of imprisonment imposed.  So, in this case, as the driver’s period of imprisonment was four months, his period of disqualification from driving was extended by two months.  Therefore, his period of disqualification stood at six years and two months in total.

Ultimately, in this case, a custodial sentence and a lengthy period of disqualification was imposed due to the driver’s previous convictions and how far he had tested over the legal alcohol limit.

This type of case goes to show that your ability to drive and licence to do so is more than just a means of transport.  It can mean your access to employment, ability to travel, ability to see family members among others.  Your conduct behind the wheel can mean you can be imprisoned if you break the applicable law and potentially be banned from driving for significant periods of time.  It would be wise to vigilantly protect your licence and if need be engage specialised solicitors to defend you in court.

If you need any advice regards to a road traffic offence, please contact us today.  Our specialist team are ready to take your call.

Alan Cameron

Alan Cameron

Dispute Resolution Team

“My motto is: ‘First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win.’”

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