In a recent case, the Criminal Sheriff Appeal Court heard a case where a driver appealed against the use of a mobile phone contrary to the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986, Regulation 110(1)(b) and the Road Traffic Act 1988 section 41D(b). The driver of the car had been convicted of the charge by a Justice of the Peace at the trial. He was given a fine of £300 and given six penalty points.
In this case, the defence appealed the conviction on the basis that the driver did not receive a fair trial. At issue was a comment by the judge at the trial regarding the credibility and reliability of two police officers, which may have expressed support for the crown case and thus caused bias to the convicted driver.
Anyone charged with a criminal offence is entitled to a fair trial. The court said in this case, that a bias that may impinge on an individual’s right to a fair trial is one that a “fair-minded and informed observer, having considered the facts, would conclude that there was a real possibility that the tribunal was biased”.
Unfortunately, for the driver in this case, in an opinion delivered by the Sheriff Principal, the appeal was rejected by the court because the court concluded given the circumstances that the comment by the Justice of the Peace at the original trial did not amount to bias and did not impinge on the driver’s right a to a fair trial.
Despite the result, however, this case highlights a wider point for any individual charged with a criminal offence and for those charged with road traffic offence in particular. High minded principles of rights to a fair trial still need to be adhered to even in what may seem like fairly pedestrian (pardon the pun), criminal road traffic matters.
If you are charged with a driving offence, your right to a fair trial is protected in the same was as any other individual charged with a criminal offence. The legal authorities still need to prove the charge according to the applicable law and your rights as an individual are still protected by the criminal justice system. Keep this in mind if you ever have the misfortune of being charged with a Road Traffic Offence and make sure you speak to your legal representative.
If you need any advice regards to a road traffic offence, please contact us today. Our specialist team are ready to take your call.