Can A Disqualified Driver Avoid Prison?
In Mansfield Magistrates’ Court this week, Patrick Stevens was ecstatic when he heard the words ‘suspended sentence’ – it was at this point that he knew he would not be going immediately to prison for his driving offences.
Patrick had, however, endured an agonising few weeks between his police station interview (during which he was charged) and the court hearing date.
Just recalling the date in question was very uncomfortable for him, Patrick told his counsel – Steve Williams, Senior Solicitor of Forrest Williams.
Having been disqualified in August of this year for a drink driving offence, Patrick admitted he had decided to drive his vehicle, but could not fully explain why. He admitted he had been very upset about his inability to drive for work, and also that some alcohol had been consumed.
Whatever his thought process at the time, the facts of the case could not be disputed. Patrick had been driving his van towards traffic lights when he had collided with the back of the vehicle in front, which had subsequently bumped into the next vehicle ahead in the queue of traffic.
Instead of stopping at the scene, or finding a safe place to pull over and exchange details, Patrick was ashamed to admit that he had panicked and driven away. The drivers of the two vehicles involved in the collision had followed Patrick and pulled over when he did. They asked him for his identify but he again panicked and refused to give his name. One of the other drivers took photographs of Patrick, grabbed the keys from his ignition and took one of Patrick’s business cards from his works van.
Patrick ran away from the scene but, full of remorse the following day, he called the police and admitted what he had done. The police linked his call with reports made by the two other drivers and he was questioned and subsequently charged with three offences: driving whilst disqualified, failing to stop at the scene of an accident and failing to give his details.
Steve Williams mitigated on Patrick’s behalf, making the court aware that the previous disqualification had hit Patrick very hard as it had placed his new sole trader business in jeopardy.
However, Patrick had been made aware from the point of instructing us to act for him that there was a very real risk an immediate custodial sentence would be imposed. The courts are reluctant to help a disqualified driver avoid prison. He knew that the court could not treat lightly the fact that he had driven whilst disqualified, and so soon after his disqualification had been imposed.
Patrick was therefore incredibly relieved to hear the District Judge pronounce sentence. A 12 week sentence was imposed, suspended for 12 months. In addition, a community order was made for 150 hours of unpaid work. Lastly, Patrick was disqualified for 9 months for driving whilst disqualified and 9 months for failing to stop – but both of these to run concurrently, so one further 9 month disqualification on top of his original disqualification.
Patrick thanked Steve Williams and said he would, in future, take very seriously the rulings of the court. He had, he said, learned his lesson the hard way.
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