William Spicer v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
JudgeMr Justice Julian Knowles
Judgment Date06 May 2021
Neutral Citation[2021] EWHC 1099 (Admin)
CourtQueen's Bench Division (Administrative Court)
Docket NumberCase No: QB-2020-006666
Date06 May 2021

[2021] EWHC 1099 (Admin)




Royal Courts of Justice

Strand, London, WC2A 2LL


THE HONOURABLE Mr Justice Julian Knowles

Case No: QB-2020-006666

William Spicer
Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis

Robert Sterling (instructed by Carruthers Law) for the Claimant

Gervase de Wilde (instructed by Directorate of Legal Services, Metropolitan Police Service) for the Defendant

Hearing dates: 1–3, 5 February 2021


Mr Justice Julian Knowles



This is a claim for libel but at its heart is the tragic death of Hina Shamim, 21, on 31 March 2015. Nothing in this judgment is intended to minimise the loss and suffering of her family and friends.


Ms Shamim was a student at Kingston University studying sports science. At about 9pm that night she was crossing Penrhyn Road, in front of the University, when she was struck by a white BMW M3 driven by Farid Reza, 36. He was travelling far above the 30mph speed limit. Ms Shamim died almost immediately. After striking Ms Shamim, Reza's car hit a bus and spun out of control. He had five children in his car, one of whom was seriously injured.


Immediately behind Reza was William Spicer, the Claimant, then aged 26. He was also a student at the University. Like Reza, he was driving at a grossly excessive speed. He was in a hired dark grey BMW 300d. Having witnessed the accident, the Claimant drove past the scene and parked his car. He then returned to where Ms Shamim had been hit. He left the scene shortly afterwards to collect his car without making himself known to the police.


It was ascertained within minutes that Reza's car was being followed by a dark coloured car when he struck Ms Shamim. The Claimant was quickly identified. He was interviewed under caution by the police on 2 April 2015 and made a statement. He was interviewed again under caution on 13 April 2015. On neither occasion was he arrested.


In due course the Claimant and Reza were charged with causing death by dangerous driving and causing serious injury by dangerous driving, contrary to ss 1 and s 1A of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (RTA 1988) respectively. They both pleaded not guilty.


In January 2017 they stood trial at the Old Bailey. The prosecution's case was that the two men knew each other and that they had been racing and showing off at the time of the accident. Prosecuting counsel said to the jury in her closing speech:

“And the evidence suggests that they drove at that speed and in that way, not because they had to, but because they chose to, because they were showing off to one another, because they were competing with one another in those high performance cars and effectively raced it, each tacitly encouraging the other to drive in a reckless and dangerous way … All the evidence, members of the jury, clearly suggests, in my submission, that on 31 March … Mr Reza was not driving dangerously because he had no choice, he drove dangerously because he liked to speed and he thought he could maintain full control of his vehicle because he was racing with Mr Spicer and showing off; ‘My BMW is better than your BMW’ … If you conclude that Spicer was driving dangerously that night, you then have to go on to consider whether his driving caused or contributed to the collision that subsequently occurred. Now the prosecution case, on this point, as I have said, is that Mr Spicer and Mr Reza were competing with each other and thereby encouraging one another to drive at excessive and dangerous speeds. And if you conclude that Mr Spicer intentionally encouraged Mr Reza to put his foot down and that as a result Mr Reza did so and drove dangerously and thereby causing collision, then it follows, as a matter of common sense, that Mr Spicer also bears some responsibility for it …”


The case against the Claimant was therefore that he had been driving at a grossly excessive speed and racing Reza, thereby encouraging him to drive at a similar speed which, in turn, was a cause of the accident.


The trial judge summed up the case this way:

“Turning now to the case against Mr Spicer. You will, of course, appreciate that he is in a different position to Mr Reza in that his vehicle was not in collision with the victim and, indeed, emerged from this incident entirely unscathed. The way in which the prosecution put the case against him is that he was driving at a grossly excessive speed and that he was, in effect, racing with Mr Reza and was thereby encouraging Mr Reza to drive at the same or a similar speed which in turn was a contributory cause of the accident. If you are sure so far as Mr Spicer was concerned that that was the case he would in law be equally responsible for the fatal collision provided that you are sure that the manner of his driving was dangerous as per the definition at paragraph 7 above, and that: (a) he intended to encourage Mr Reza and did encourage him to drive dangerously and (b) his actions thereby contributed to the cause of the collision.”


The Claimant was initially jointly indicted with Reza for the two offences I have mentioned. At the close of the prosecution's case the judge permitted the prosecution to add alternative counts of dangerous driving (contrary to s 2 of the RTA 1988) and careless driving (contrary to s 3) against the Claimant.


Reza was convicted by the jury of the s 1 and s 1A offences and was sentenced to a total of five years and three months' imprisonment.


The Claimant was acquitted of these two offences and dangerous driving, but was convicted of careless driving. He was fined and his licence was endorsed with nine penalty points.

This claim for libel and the statement complained of


This claim concerns a press release published by the Metropolitan Police's Directorate of Media and Communication (DMC) (ie, its press office) on 26 January 2017, the day of the verdicts and sentencing. I will refer to it as ‘the Article’. It was as follows. (The paragraph numbering is taken from Warby J's ruling on meaning which I discuss later. The underlined paragraphs are those to which the Claimant took particular objection):

Two guilty of killing a woman while racing their cars

News Jan 26, 2017 17:21 GMT

[Picture Hina Shamim]

[1] Two men who raced their high performance cars along a street in Kingston, leading to the death of a young woman, have been found guilty by a jury.

[2] Farid Reza, 36 (3.04.80) of Surbiton Road, Kingston was convicted at the Old Bailey today, Thursday, 26 January, of causing death by dangerous driving and also causing serious injury by dangerous driving after a young boy inside his car suffered multiple fractures.

[3] He was sentenced to five years and three months for causing death by dangerous driving and three years imprisonment for causing serious injury by dangerous driving, to run concurrently. He was also disqualified from driving for five years, will be required to take an extended retest and must pay a victim surcharge of £120.

[4] William Spicer, 28 (6.06.88) of Somervell, Harrow, was found not guilty of those two offences but guilty of careless driving.

[5] He was given nine penalty points on his licence, a £1,000 fine and ordered to pay £500 costs.

[6] Hina Shamim, 21, was killed instantly when she was struck by a BMW – driven by Reza who had five children in the car with him – as she crossed Penrhyn Road on 31 March 2015.

[7] Detective Sergeant Jeff Edwards, from the Met's Roads and Transport Policing Command, said:

“Reza and Spicer were essentially showing off, racing each other to see who had the fastest car.

[8] “Miss Shamim didn't stand a chance; at the speed Reza was travelling it was impossible for him to stop in time and avoid the collision. Not only that but he had five children in his car whose lives he also put in danger through his incredibly reckless and needless actions. One was badly injured.

[9] I would like to commend Miss Shamim's family for their dignity throughout the trial, undoubtedly an incredibly difficult time for them, as well as the police investigation and prosecution teams for their tireless work to secure these convictions.”

[10] The court heard that around 21:00hrs Reza was racing his white convertible BMW M3 against a dark grey BMW 330d, driven by Spicer who had three friends with him. They drove from the area of Kingston town centre towards Surbiton, reaching speeds of almost 70mph in a 30mph zone as they came into Penrhyn Road.

[11] Miss Shamim, a student studying sport science at Kingston University, was crossing the road as she made her way to the campus library.

[12] She was hit at speed by Reza's car.

[13] The vehicle then crashed into a bus before spinning and stopping on the pavement.

[14] Witnesses heard crying and saw Reza trying to get young children out of the car. Miss Shamim was lying motionless on the pavement beside the vehicle.

[15] Spicer continued past the collision and made an illegal right-hand turn into Surbiton Road.

[16] Police were called and commenced CPR but Miss Shamim died at 21:43hrs.

[17] They identified that five children – aged four, four, eight, 12 and 16 – had been in Reza's car. The 16-year old was still trapped and had to be cut out of the vehicle by the London fire brigade.

[18] The children were taken by ambulance to St George's Hospital with shock and cuts and bruises. Following a scan, one of the four-year olds was found to have fractures to his skull, jawbone, collarbone and a bone in his face. He has since recovered.

[19] A post-mortem examination of Miss Shamim found she died from multiple injuries, including fractures to her arms, left leg and pelvis and a brain injury.

[20] Examination of Reza's car found no child seats and only two seatbelts in the back of the vehicle, meaning at least two of the children were unrestrained.


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