R v Taylor

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
JudgeLord Neuberger,Lord Carnwath,Lady Hale,Lord Mance,Lord Hughes,Lord Toulson,Lord Sumption
Judgment Date03 February 2016
Neutral Citation[2016] UKSC 5
Date03 February 2016
CourtSupreme Court
R
and
Taylor
(Appellant)

[2016] UKSC 5

before

Lord Neuberger, President

Lady Hale, Deputy President

Lord Mance

Lord Sumption

Lord Carnwath

Lord Hughes

Lord Toulson

THE SUPREME COURT

Hilary Term

On appeal from: [2014] EWCA Crim 829

Appellant

Andrew McGee

(Instructed by Trinity Advocates)

Respondent

Steven Kovats QC

Duncan Atkinson

(Instructed by Crown Prosecution Service Appeals and Review Unit)

Heard on 15 December 2015

Lord Sumption

(with whom Lord Neuberger, Lady Hale, Lord Mance, Lord Carnwath, Lord Hughes and Lord Toulson agree)

1

This is an appeal by leave of the Court of Appeal on a point of law arising in the course of the trial of the appellant, Jack Taylor, in the Crown Court at Exeter for aggravated vehicle taking, contrary to section 12A of the Theft Act 1968.

The facts
2

The facts can be shortly stated. On the evening of 23 June 2012, the appellant, who was in Exmouth, took a Ford Transit Tipper truck from a friend, David Marriott, in order to collect another friend from Exeter. The truck belonged to Marriott's employer, and the Crown alleges that it was taken without the owner's consent. Having picked up the friend, the appellant was driving back to Exmouth when he collided on a bend in a narrow country lane with a scooter driven by Steven Davidson-Hackett. The scooter slid under the wheels of the truck, and Davidson-Hackett was killed. The appellant was later found to be over the drink drive limit. He was also uninsured. But the Crown, after a careful investigation of the accident, accepts that there was no evidence on which a jury could be sure that the manner of his driving was at fault or open to criticism.

The statutory framework
3

Section 12 of the Theft Act provides that a person shall be guilty of an offence if

"without having the consent of the owner or other lawful authority, he takes any conveyance for his own or another's use or, knowing that any conveyance has been taken without such authority, drives it or allows himself to be carried in or on it."

This a summary offence carrying a maximum sentence of six months imprisonment.

4

There are a number of offences of varying degrees of gravity which may be committed by drivers whose manner of driving causes death, injury or damage. At the relevant time, they included manslaughter, causing death by dangerous driving, causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving, dangerous driving, careless or inconsiderate driving, causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs, and various other offences involving drink or drugs. All of these offences require mens rea, generally provided by the absence of due care. The appellant was not charged with any of them, and in the light of the agreed facts about the manner of his driving, he could not have been convicted of any of them. Instead, he was charged with aggravated vehicle taking contrary to section 12A of the Theft Act 1968.

5

Section 12A of the Theft Act was inserted by section 1 of the Aggravated Vehicle Taking Act 1992. It provides so far as relevant, as follows:

"12A Aggravated vehicle-taking

(1) Subject to subsection (3) below, a person is guilty of aggravated taking of a vehicle if —

(a) he commits an offence under section 12(1) above (in this section referred to as a 'basic offence') in relation to a mechanically propelled vehicle; and

(b) it is proved that, at any time after the vehicle was unlawfully taken (whether by him or another) and before it was recovered, the vehicle was driven, or injury or damage was caused, in one or more of the circumstances set out in paragraphs (a) to (d) of subsection (2) below.

(2) The circumstances referred to in subsection (1)(b) above are —

(a) that the vehicle was driven dangerously on a road or other public place;

(b) that, owing to the driving of the vehicle, an accident occurred by which injury was caused to any person;

(c) that, owing to the driving of the vehicle, an accident occurred by which damage was caused to any property, other than the vehicle;

(d) that damage was caused to the vehicle.

(3) A person is not guilty of an offence under this section if he proves that, as regards any such proven driving, injury or damage as is referred to in subsection (1)(b) above, either —

(a) the driving, accident or damage referred to in subsection (2) above occurred before he committed the basic offence; or

(b) he was neither in nor on nor in the immediate vicinity of the vehicle when that driving, accident or damage occurred."

At the time when section 12A was enacted, it carried a maximum sentence of two years' imprisonment, or five years if the accident caused the death of the victim. The five years was increased by section 285(1) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 to 14 years.

6

The Crown contends that the only element of fault required for the offence under section 12A(2)(b) is the unauthorised taking of the vehicle, and that no further fault on the part of the defendant need be proved in relation to the occurrence of the accident.

The proceedings
7

The appellant was charged on an indictment containing five counts. Of these Counts 1, 2 and 5 can for present purposes be ignored. Count 1 related to a previous occasion; Count 2 related only to David Marriot; and the Crown decided not to proceed on Count 5. That left only Count 3, which charged him with aggravated vehicle taking; and Count 4, which charged him jointly with Marriott with causing the death of Mr Davidson-Hackett while driving uninsured, contrary to section 3ZB of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (as inserted by section 21(1) of the Road Safety Act 2006).

8

On 31 July 2013, the Supreme Court gave judgment in R v Hughes [2013] 1 WLR 2461, holding that an offence under section 3ZB of the Road Traffic Act 1988 required proof that there was some element of fault in the defendant's control of the vehicle, which contributed in a more than minimal way to the victim's death.

9

The case came before the Recorder of Exeter (His Honour Judge Gilbert QC) on 13 January 2014. At the opening of the case, an application was made on behalf of both defendants to vacate Count 4 in the light of the decision in Hughes. After an adjournment overnight, the Crown accepted that there was no fault in the manner of Mr Taylor's driving and announced that they would offer no evidence on Count 4. A verdict of Not Guilty was accordingly directed on that count.

10

The question then arose whether the decision in Hughes also ruled out a conviction on Count 3. The Recorder was invited by both parties to rule on this point. The Crown sought to distinguish Hughes. It relied on the decision of the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) in R v Marsh [1997] 1 Cr App R 67 as authority for the proposition that there was no element of fault in the offence of aggravated vehicle taking. The Recorder decided that point against them. He ruled that fault had to be proved in relation to the accident. The Crown asked for leave to appeal his ruling on the count of aggravated vehicle taking, and the proceedings were adjourned until the appeal had been disposed of.

11

The appeal was heard on 9 April 2014 by the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) (Pitchford LJ, Sweeney J and HHJ Bourne-Arton). They allowed the appeal on the ground that Marsh remained binding authority, but certified a question of general public importance and gave leave to appeal to the Supreme Court. The certified question was as follows:

"Is an offence contrary to section12A(1) and 2(b) of the Theft Act 1968 committed when, following the basic offence and before recovery of the vehicle, the defendant drove the vehicle, and without fault in the manner of his driving the vehicle was involved in an accident which caused injury to a person."

The authorities
13

The facts of Marsh were in the relevant respects indistinguishable from those of the present case, except that the injury to the victim was not fatal. Like the present case, it turned on the meaning of the words "owing to the driving of the vehicle, an accident occurred by which injury was caused to any person" in section 12A(2)(b). The Court of Appeal ruled that fault in relation to the accident was not an element of the offence. The judgment of the court was delivered by Laws J. He held that the only relevant requirement of the subsection was that the driving of the vehicle should have been the cause of the accident, and that it was not legitimate to imply words which would require proof that the manner of the driving was the cause of the accident. He pointed out that section 12A(2)(a) expressly required that the vehicle should have been driven dangerously, but that no corresponding requirement of fault could be found in subsections (b), (c) or (d). He therefore concluded that once it was established that the basic offence of taking the vehicle had been committed, no further element of fault was required.

14

In Williams, the offence charged was causing death by driving when unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured, contrary to section 3ZB of the Road Traffic Act 1988. The statute provided that a person committed an offence if, being unlicensed, uninsured or disqualified, he "causes the death of another person by driving a motor vehicle on a road". (The reference to disqualified drivers has since been removed, and separate offences created to cover them.) The facts were that the defendant was driving through Swansea, without a licence or insurance, when a pedestrian crossed the central reservation and stepped in front of his car. On the facts, the accident was entirely the fault of the pedestrian. Nevertheless, the trial judge ruled that fault was not an element of the offence, and the defendant was convicted. His ruling was upheld by the...

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4 cases
  • R v AB and Another
    • United Kingdom
    • Supreme Court
    • 11 Julio 2018
    ...R v Brown (Richard) [2013] UKSC 43; [2013] 4 All ER 860, R v Hughes (Michael) [2013] UKSC 56; [2013] 1 WLR 2461, and R v Taylor (Jack) [2016] UKSC 5; [2016] 1 WLR 500. 9 Whilst the principle is not in doubt, and is of great importance in the approach to the construction of criminal statute......
  • R v Thomas Wilson
    • United Kingdom
    • Court of Appeal (Criminal Division)
    • 8 Junio 2022
    ...quality of the driving. Neither (b) nor (c) requires proof on its face that the quality of the driving was deficient. However, in Taylor [2016] UKSC 5, the Supreme Court affirmed its earlier decision in Hughes [2013] UKSC 56 in holding that the driving referred to in (b) and (c) must have......
  • A (a minor, by J B, her father and next friend) v Minister for Education
    • Bermuda
    • Supreme Court (Bermuda)
    • 22 Abril 2022
    ...of legality”. He refers to decision in The Christian Institute and others (Appellants) v The Lord Advocate (Respondent) (Scotland) [2016] UKSC 5, where the Supreme Court held at [79]: “79. In order to be “in accordance with the law” under article 8(2), the measure must not only have some b......
  • R v Elliot Bower, Declan Bower, Mason Cartledge: Sentencing remarks of HHJ Jeremy Richardson QC
    • United Kingdom
    • Crown Court
    • 28 Enero 2019
    ...of one quarter by reason of the only real piece of mitigation, which is your guilty plea. 57. I am also aware of the case of Taylor [2016] UKSC 5, and in particular the judgment of Lord Sumption to which reference has been made. I take the view that I must calibrate your culpability with 58......
1 firm's commentaries
3 books & journal articles
  • ‘Reasonable Cause to Suspect’: In the Absence of Knowledge and Actual Suspicion: R v Lane and Letts (AB and CD) [2018] UKSC 36; [2018] 1 WLR 3647
    • United Kingdom
    • Journal of Criminal Law, The No. 82-6, December 2018
    • 1 Diciembre 2018
    ...Turning to three cases concerning questions of statutory construction (R v Brown [2013] UKSC 43; RvHughes [2013] UKSC 56; and R v Taylor [2016] UKSC 5), Lord Hughes concluded that these cases (at[12]):...are good illustrations of the truism that the presumption on which the appellants here ......
  • Rethinking Causation in English Criminal Law
    • United Kingdom
    • Journal of Criminal Law, The No. 87-1, February 2023
    • 1 Febrero 2023
    ...to be imputable to the defendant …If the term cause must be used, it24. R v Dalloway [1847] 2 Cox CC 273; R v Hughes (n 14); R v Taylor [2016] UKSC 5. NB: the ‘blameworthy’test has emergedfrom a specif‌ic set of cases of strict liability involving accidents whilst driving. Thus, it is rare ......
  • Rethinking Causation in English Criminal Law
    • United Kingdom
    • Journal of Criminal Law, The No. 87-1, February 2023
    • 1 Febrero 2023
    ...to be imputable to the defendant …If the term cause must be used, it24. R v Dalloway [1847] 2 Cox CC 273; R v Hughes (n 14); R v Taylor [2016] UKSC 5. NB: the ‘blameworthy’test has emergedfrom a specif‌ic set of cases of strict liability involving accidents whilst driving. Thus, it is rare ......

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