Day 6 - Weird Cases - More Than One Way to Walk a Dog


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Day 6 - Weird Cases - More Than One Way to Walk a Dog

  1. 1. WEIRD CASESThere are now over 3,000 different motoring offences that a motorist can commit underEnglish law. Someone in that rule-making department needs to get out more. One of the rulesis Regulation 104 of the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986. It makes itan offence for anyone to drive in circumstances that mean they “cannot have proper control ofthe vehicle.” Paul Railton and his pet dog have just given a new dimension to that rule.Railton was recently convicted of driving a vehicle while “walking his dog” by holding on to itsleash through the car window as it padded briskly along the road.When the police caught Railton he was driving in a 4x4 Nissan along a road in CountyDurham, approaching a blind summit, with his pet lurcher on the end of lead that went throughthe driver’s open window. After the case, at Consett magistrates’ court, he said “a lot ofpeople exercise their dog like that”. If that is the attitude of dog owners, perhaps the dogstaken on ‘car walks’ should get equally lazy and opt to be pulled along on skate boards.Railton was convicted, fined £66, ordered to pay £43 costs, and banned from driving for sixmonths as he already had nine penalty points on his licence.The offence of driving while unable to have proper control of the vehicle has attracted someother unusual prosecutions. In 2005, Sarah McCaffery, a nursery nurse from Northumberland,was convicted of the offence, and fined £60, after she drove slowly round a bend with bothhands on the wheel but with an apple in one hand. During ten court hearings held over 13months, prosecutors used photographic evidence from a spotter plane, film from a policehelicopter and video from a patrol car. It cost over £10,000 to secure the apple conviction.The judicial duty to dispense justice punctually is an important one but there are limits. In1996, a judge was given a written caution for not being in proper control of his vehicle whilehe was driving with urgency to hear a case at Newcastle Crown Court. A police officer hadpulled him over when he saw the judge driving while using an electric razor to shave. Morereckless, however, was the conduct of Lady Teresa Manners, daughter of the Duke ofRutland. In 1983 she was convicted of driving while not being in proper control of her car aftershe was caught racing down the fast lane of the M6 while having only one hand on the wheelbecause she was energetically and amorously involved in a “passionate embrace” with a manin her passenger seat.Gary Slapper is Professor of Law at The Open University. His new book Weird Cases ispublished by Wildy, Simmonds & Hill.These articles were published by The Times Online as part of the weekly column written byGary Slapper