DPP v Skillington

JurisdictionIreland
JudgeMr. Justice Birmingham
Judgment Date13 October 2016
Neutral Citation[2016] IECA 289
Docket Number2015/412
CourtCourt of Appeal (Ireland)
Date13 October 2016

[2016] IECA 289

THE COURT OF APPEAL

The Court

Birmingham J.

Mahon J.

Edwards J.

2015/412

IN THE MATTER OF SECTION 16 OF THE COURTS OF JUSTICE ACT 1947

BETWEEN
DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC PROSECUTIONS
PROSECUTOR
AND
TONY SKILLINGTON
ACCUSED

Employment – Driving disqualification – Case stated – Consultative case stated – Whether the Court has discretion not to disqualify a person from driving in circumstances where the said disqualification would impair that person’s or any other person’s livelihood

Facts: The accused, Mr Skillington, was summoned to appear before the District Court in Middleton to answer an allegation that he had driven a vehicle which was not covered by insurance. The matter came before the District Court on the 11th September, 2014, at which stage the accused was convicted in his absence and he was disqualified from driving for a period of two years. The accused lodged an appeal against the severity of the penalty and that appeal came on before the Circuit Court in Cork on the 16th December, 2014. The object of the appeal was to urge that the judge exercise a discretion which it was contended that he had under s. 65(5)(b) of the Road Traffic Act 2010, not to disqualify. Mr Skillington submitted that the necessity of an individual driving for the purposes of that individual’s work is a sufficient reason why a disqualification should not be imposed. The judge conducted some research in the area and then drew the attention of the State Solicitor and defence counsel to various cases from other jurisdictions dealing with what amounted to a special reason not to disqualify. The accused submitted that to disqualify him from driving would be disproportionate in the circumstances where this was his first offence and that there was little risk of the accused committing such an offence in the future. The accused submitted that disqualification would result in exceptional hardship as his right to earn a livelihood would be impaired and there was a possibility of the company going out of business; if that happened not only would his life and the lives of his family members be severely affected but so too would the lives of others who would also experience hardship. The DPP submitted that on the facts of the case there was no special reason present which would permit the judge to avoid a disqualification; a special reason must be one which is rare or unusual, and there was nothing unusual in the fact that disqualification from driving would give rise to employment difficulties. On foot of a consultative case stated, the following question was posed to the Court of Appeal: whether the Court has discretion not to disqualify a person from driving in circumstances where the said disqualification would impair that person’s or any other person’s livelihood.

Held by Birmingham J that the Court has a discretion not to disqualify where there are special reasons present. Birmingham J held that difficulties of an employment nature will, of themselves and in isolation rarely, if ever, amount to special reasons.

Birmingham J held that the question posed should be answered Yes.

Case stated (question answered).

JUDGMENT of the Court delivered on the 13th day of October 2016 by Mr. Justice Birmingham
1

The matter comes before the Court on foot of a consultative case stated.

2

The question posed in the case stated is as follows:-

‘Having regard to the facts as proved or admitted or agreed and as found by me and having regard to the law in this jurisdiction, as well as that of other jurisdictions, the opinion of the Court of Appeal is sought on the question as to whether the Court has discretion not to disqualify a person from driving in circumstances where the said disqualification would impair that person's or any other person's livelihood’.

3

The background to the case stated is that Mr Skillington was summoned to appear before the District Court in Middleton to answer an allegation that he had driven a vehicle which was not covered by insurance. The matter came before the District Court on the 11th September, 2014, at which stage the accused was convicted in his absence and he was disqualified from driving for a period of two years. The accused lodged an appeal against the severity of the penalty and that appeal came on before His Honour Judge David Riordan in the Circuit Court in Cork on the 16th December, 2014. The appeal was one against severity only and in reality related only to the order which disqualified Mr. Skillington from driving. The accused admitted that he was guilty of the offence of driving without insurance and he also accepted that pursuant to s. 65 of the Road Traffic Act 2010, a consequential disqualification order follows upon a conviction. The object of the appeal was to urge that the judge exercise a discretion which it was contended that he had under s. 65(5)(b) of the Road Traffic Act 2010, not to disqualify. Section 65(5)(b) provides:-

‘Where a person is convicted of an offence under s. 52 tried summarily or under s. 56, the court may, in the case of a first offence under the section concerned, where it is satisfied that a special reason (which it shall specify when making its order) has been proved by the convicted person to exist in his or her particular case to justify such a course –

(i) decline to make a consequential disqualification order, or

(ii) specify a period of disqualification in the consequential disqualification order of less than 1 year.’

4

I will refer to information that was put before the Court about the circumstances of the offence and the circumstances of the offender presently. But at this stage, what is of significance is that counsel for Mr. Skillington submitted that the necessity of an individual driving for the purposes of that individual's work is a sufficient reason why a disqualification should not be imposed. Counsel cited in support of the arguments that he was making the case ofThe People (DPP) v Peter O'Dwyer [2005]3 I.R. 134. As set out in some detail in this case stated, the judge conducted some research in the area and then drew the attention of the State Solicitor and defence counsel to...

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2 cases
  • Amanda Magret Landsberg and Eben Arnoldis Breetzke v Road Safety Authority, The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the Attorney General Ireland
    • Ireland
    • High Court
    • 5 November 2021
    ...situation in the present case with the observations by Birmingham J (as he then was) in Director of Public Prosecutions v. Skillington [2016] IECA 289, the respondents submit that the applicants have not adduced sufficient evidence on which any claim premised on their right to seek employme......
  • DPP v Walsh
    • Ireland
    • Court of Appeal (Ireland)
    • 27 July 2017
    ...length of disqualification rather than the four year consequential provision. 14 In The Director of Public Prosecutions v. Skillington [2016] IECA 289 this Court considered the question of whether a Circuit Court judge had discretion not to disqualify a person where it was said it would imp......

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