R v A  EWCA Crim 407
Criminal solicitors need to be aware of this latest case which deals predominantly with causation in a death by dangerous driving case.
This was a case where the court of appeal heard an application for leave to appeal against a terminating ruling. The defendant “A” faced an indictment which alleged that had caused:
“L” who faced the same counts had pleaded guilty.
It was stated that a large vehicle driven by “L” collided with the rear of a car which had been driven by “A”. “A” had stopped the car on the hard shoulder. It would appear that “A” had tried to do what she considered to be a sensible thing when she was the designated driver of a total of 4 friends, 3 of whom had been and drunk. She stopped the car on the hard shoulder as two of her friends were arguing and she was irritated by them. The car was not displaying hazard lights.
“L” who was the driver of a truck struck A's car whilst it was on the hard shoulder. It was believed (although not proven) that L had fallen asleep. One of the passengers in A's car was killed. Two of the other occupants were seriously injured.
"A" was prosecuted on the grounds that her driving was a contributory factor in the collision. At the close of the prosecution case, a submission of no case to answer was made.
The trial judge considered two key factors:
The judge rejected the defence submission in respect of dangerousness as there was clear evidence upon which a jury should deliberate upon and could conclude that stopping on the hard shoulder was not an emergency. The trial judge did accept the submission in relation to causation.
The Judge ruled that the prosecution case at its highest could not provide a sound basis upon which a jury could properly conclude that it was reasonably foreseeable that another driver in the early hours of the morning, in light traffic would suddenly and at high speed, career across three lanes onto the hard shoulder. The Judge was satisfied in the specific circumstances that L's driving could only constitute a free, deliberate and informed act. As such this was a new and intervening act that broke the chain of causation.
On appeal to the Court of Appeal, the prosecution submitted that issues were issues of fact were matters for the jury and not a matter of law for the judge. To prove causation of death by dangerous driving, the prosecution needed only to establish that her driving was A cause, not THE cause of the accident. It need not be the principal or a substantial cause.
The Court of appeal ruled that the law does not require that the particular circumstances in which a collision occurs should be foreseeable. What had to be sensibly anticipated or reasonably foreseeable was that another vehicle might leave the carriageway and collide with a parked car. As such the issue was one for the Jury.