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High Court deems use of mobile phone whilst driving NOT an offence if used outside of ‘interactive telecommunications’

31 Jul 2019

The High Court has agreed that using a function on a mobile phone, which does not involve ‘interactive telecommunication’, is not a mobile phone offence whilst driving.

The High Court handed down the Judgement yesterday, which clarifies the offence of using a mobile phone whilst behind the wheel.

This ruling could have wider implications, especially for taxi and private hire drivers, who use mobile phone functionalities for ride-hailing bookings and navigation.

The conclusion is that the offence is not committed unless it is proved beyond reasonable doubt (by the Prosecution) that the phone was being used for an ‘interactive telecommunication function’ at the time of the alleged offence.

However, as always, it may still be an offence of driving without due care and attention or dangerous driving, if the standard of driving falls below that expected of a careful and competent driver.

The case follows a motorist, Ramsey Barreto, who was caught filming a road accident back on 19 August 2017 in Ruislip.

According to the courts, a police officer observed the respondent holding his phone up to the driver’s window for between 10 and 15 seconds. He stopped the respondent, at which point the phone was on his lap in video mode. He admitted what he had done and apologised.

A spokesperson from Mr Barreto’s legal team, Patterson Law, said: “We are absolutely delighted with the outcome of this case.  We have been arguing for many years that the legislation in relation to the offence of using a handheld mobile phone whilst driving a motor vehicle has failed to keep pace with the evolution of smart phones.

“The increasing multi-functionality of smart phones was, in fact, making a mockery of the law.

“We ended up with a situation where you could hold a Casio calculator performing mathematical calculations whilst driving and you would not be committing a mobile phone offence, whereas doing exactly the same thing on the calculator app on a smart phone, according to the way the Police / Crown Prosecution Service were applying the law, meant you would automatically be committing an offence warranting 6 points and a hefty fine.

“When the fixed penalty for using a mobile phone was increased from 3 to 6 points and the fixed penalty fine was increased from £100 to £200 we argued that Parliament should have seized the opportunity to update the legislation in general, not just the penalties. It seemed like a missed opportunity at the time. A quick fix.
 

“This is not a loophole argument/defence. This is simply the correct application and understanding of the law as it currently stands.

“We have always said that it is dangerous to interact with any type of device whilst driving a motor vehicle on a road and it was always open to the Police / Prosecution to pursue an allegation of driving without due care and attention or perhaps even dangerous driving. That was never the issue.

“The issue was that the law as it stood created anomalies and confusion. We now have the clarity in this judicial precedent to match what we had been correctly advocating on behalf of our clients for many many years.

“We would like to thank our client Mr. Barreto for his patience in this matter. Clearly he didn’t set out wanting to be the test case on this issue.” 

 

Image: Pexels

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