DPP v Alam
|Mr. Justice Edwards
|27 November 2017
| IECA 311
|Record No: 2016/139
|Court of Appeal (Ireland)
|27 November 2017
 IECA 311
THE COURT OF APPEAL
Record No: 2016/139
Sentencing – Careless driving causing serious bodily harm – Disqualification order – Appellant seeking to appeal against disqualification – Whether there were special reasons which would have justified the court at first instance in declining to make a disqualification order
Facts: The appellant, Mr Alam, appeared before Cork Circuit Criminal Court charged with one count of careless driving causing serious bodily harm which occurred on the 20th of September 2015. A guilty plea was entered on the 18th of April 2016 and evidence was heard on the 12th of May 2016. The appellant was sentenced on the 12th of May 2016 to 12 months imprisonment, suspended in full and received a disqualification from driving for a period of four years. The appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal solely against this disqualification and sought to argue that there were special reasons which would have justified the court at first instance in declining to make a disqualification order or in specifying a period of disqualification of less than four years. The case made in respect of special reasons relied not just upon the appellant's employment as a taxi driver, but sought to emphasise the bizarre and unusual circumstances of the offence; there were no aggravating factors and it appeared to have arisen due to no more than a regrettable failure to see the injured party in time who, unexpectedly from the point of view of the appellant, was out on the road, towards the middle of the road and seemingly trying to flag down a taxi going in either direction. In support of the case that there were special reasons the Court was referred to The People (DPP) v Skillington  IECA 209.
Held by the Court that the appellant's complaint that the sentencing judge launched straight into giving judgment without affording defence counsel the opportunity to present a plea in mitigation or to make any other submissions was supported by the transcript. In circumstances where the Court found an error of principle, it quashed the sentence imposed by the court below and proceeded to re-sentence the appellant.
The Court held that it would re-impose the sentence of twelve months imprisonment, and would suspend it in its entirety on the same terms as was done in the court below. However, in so far as the consequential disqualification was concerned, while the Court again imposed a disqualification of four years, it did believe that special reasons existed, which would justify stating that the requirement to produce to the licensing authority at the end of the four year disqualification period a certificate of competency and/or fitness shall not operate in this case.
The appellant appeared before Cork Circuit Criminal Court charged with one count of careless driving causing serious bodily harm which occurred on the 20th of September 2015. A guilty plea was entered on the 18th of April 2016 and evidence was heard on the 12th of May 2016.
The appellant was sentenced on the 12th of May 2016 to 12 months imprisonment, suspended in full and received a disqualification from driving for a period of four years. The appellant now appeals solely against this disqualification and seeks to argue that there were special reasons which would have justified the court at first instance in declining to make a disqualification order or in specifying a period of disqualification of less than four years.
Around 3 a.m. on the 20th of September 2015 the appellant was driving his taxi on South Mall in Cork City, when he struck the injured party, Ms Michelle Austin. Garda Patricia Devine told the court that the injured party appeared to be trying to flag down a taxi and was standing in the middle of the road when she was struck. The appellant co-operated fully with the investigation and pleaded guilty early at the first available opportunity. The appellant appeared not to have seen the injured party and there was no suggestion of excessive speed, alcohol or use of a mobile phone on his part.
The injured party was seriously injured. She was rendered into a coma and was put on life support before undergoing lifesaving brain surgery. Though she has made a slow but constant recovery, she nonetheless has difficulties with her left hand and there are question marks over her prognosis. She is traumatised but bears the appellant no ill will, as evidenced by her suggestion that he only receive a fine or other minor punishment.
The appellant was 31 at the time of sentence and had no previous convictions. He had been driving in Ireland for seven years and had worked in security for six years before commencing work as a taxi driver three years before the incident. As stated, he co-operated fully and pleaded guilty at the first opportunity. He was extremely remorseful and appeared to be visibly traumatised by the incident when he appeared voluntarily at the station for questioning.
In passing sentence the sentencing Judge made the following remarks:
The accused, as I said, has pleaded guilty. There are none of the regular aggravating factors. There's no drink, no excessive speed, no holding of a mobile. The car appears to have been in good order and the circumstances of the carelessness are that a driver, indeed the holder of a PSV licence, driving in a city street in lit up conditions, did not see in good time something that was in front of him on the road. That's a fundamental requirement of careful driving that you keep a proper lookout and drive at an appropriate speed which, I believe, he didn't do. He is very remorseful, I accept that. He stayed at the scene, which is a very significant matter and he co-operated from day one with the guards. He gave a full statement. He's fully insured, so from that point of view, another forum will and is in a position to properly deal with that aspect of the case. And it is not correct that the lady ran out in front of the car. The appropriate sentence is, I measure his sentence at --
MR O'SULLIVAN: The maximum is two years, Judge.
MR O'SULLIVAN: In terms of imprisonment, the maximum is two years and there's the possibility of a fine as well. There is also --
JUDGE: Very good. I...
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