Saturday, 26 May 2012

Beware of "Sex on the Beach" in the midday sun!

Co-authored by Jeanette Miller and Jonathan Berry

Isn't this sunshine gorgeous?! Doesn't it make you feel so much happier when you open those curtains and see glorious blue sky? Like many Brits, does this seemingly rare heatwave also increase your tendency for an alcoholic tipple or two in the sunshine. Maybe because it is so rare to be able to sit freely outside, more people are encouraged to go for a drink after work or on their dinner hour and can decide to ‘chance’ driving home. The excitement of the summer sun is then short lived when they are arrested for drink driving and are looking at a minimum 12 month ban.

The summer sun can also increase the temptation to look at the cocktail menu. Popular cocktails such as the ‘Cosmopolitan’ and ‘Long Island Ice Tea’ have several different spirits in and because of the home made aspect to these drink consumers are often unaware of exactly how many units they are drinking.

Despite the fact that the drink driving limit can be exceeded even with one drink, there is a common view across the country that any more than two pints is unacceptable. There is little or no guidance out there on how many cocktails you can have! Possibly because most cocktails on their own would send you straight over it.

I have been harping on for years about the "2 pints" theory being flawed in itself as every drink is different and contains varying alcoholic content. The amount of ‘acceptable’ alcoholic drinks is completely different from person-to-person.

Factors that people need to take into consideration are:
  • The person’s gender
  • The person’s weight
  • The person’s current levels of stress
  • The person’s age
  • Whether the person has eaten in the past few hours; and
  • The person’s metabolism
Cocktails have several different spirits in them and the flavour is usually masked by fruit-based mixers and sugar. Many people can get carried away sipping their ‘sex on the beach’ and can easily be convinced to order a ‘mojito’ to follow.

Cocktails are commonly served in large jugs and are regularly ordered between friends. Again, this can be very dangerous before driving home as you are unaware the amount you are drinking and exactly how many units are in the glass you have poured yourself!

Drinking pints of lager these days is just as hazardous as fashionable cocktails! There are many continental lagers and beers now on the menu and people very rarely ask the percentage of the alcohol content when a pint is ordered.

Half a pint of 3.5% beer/lager or cider is approximately one unit of alcohol. Following reading this blog, I hope you will now notice that many continental lagers are now closer to 5% or even 6%!
This drastically effects the volume of lager that you can drink, alongside the other factors stated above, before being caught driving over the limit.

Apart from taking a breathalyser test before getting behind the wheel (and even they have their faults!) there are no definitive physiological indicators whether you will be over or under the limit. If caught and convicted, the "chancing it" cocktail could cost you your job and have a knock on effect to innocent third parties, such as family members.

The vast majority of people who call us to find out what they can do about the drink drive prosecution they face start by saying, "I'm not a drink driver and I completely disagree with drink driving". I don't doubt that for one minute as I am yet to come across someone who supports getting behind the wheel when drunk. The common theme amongst virtually every client we assist is a lack of awareness and poor judgement. Don't let the cocktail menu tempt you to join this club!

If you have unfortunately been caught drink driving and would like to pick up the phone and talk things through with one of our experienced caseworkers , then please get in touch on Free phone 08000 85 27 84.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Confused Much Mr Taxi Driver???

Guest Blog by George Matthews, Paralegal at Geoffrey Miller Solicitors

From 1 March 2012 all taxi drivers in London are required to display taxi driver identifiers in the front and rear windows of their taxis. There are two different types of identifiers – a Green Badge for those taxis licensed to pick up fares in all parts of London, and a Yellow Badge for those taxis licensed for suburban areas only. The Yellow Badge also identifies which sectors the licence covers.

Although taxi laws and offences are fairly niche areas of motoring law we thought we'd post some clarification for those who may be confused by the changed procedures:

1. What happens if I don’t display my identifier?

Failure to display identifiers in the form prescribed by Transport for London (TfL) or displaying identifiers that bear a different number to the driver’s badge are breaches of the London Cab Order 1934. The London Taxi and Private Hire (TPH) Staff Manual provides that action should be taken in accordance with the following guidelines:

(i)           Not displaying identifiers: A written warning will be the norm for a first offence in the period of the current and preceding licence. Unless there is significant mitigation, a second offence will result in a suspension for one month, and a third offence in the same period will result in revocation of the driver’s licence.

(ii)          If the driver is not displaying identifiers because they have been lost or stolen and he has informed TPH, no further action is necessary. However, if the driver fails to inform TPH action as at (i) above should be considered.

(iii)         Displaying identifiers in the wrong place: A Compliance Officer should resolve on the spot either by issuing an additional wallet to affix in the correct location or making a note to send an additional wallet to licensee’s address.

(iv)         Displaying identifiers with the wrong badge number: Each case will be judged on its own merits although if there is evidence of fraudulent activity consideration must be given to suspending or revoking the driver’s licence (see also (v) below).

(v)          If a driver is found displaying forged, fake or stolen identifiers, consideration must be given to suspending his licence pending further investigation. On completion of the investigation the driver’s fitness to remain licensed must be reviewed. See also “I copied my mate’s identifier...” below.

(vi)         Drivers displaying photocopies of their identifiers, and storing their original elsewhere in their taxi: The driver should be given a verbal warning and advised to display the correct identifiers. A record of the warning must be made and should the driver repeat the offence it should be dealt with as at (i) above.

2. Why have these identifiers been introduced?

The identifiers are designed to encourage compliance by drivers, including plying for hire within their licensed area. They are not intended to restrict the areas in which taxis can work, but aid TfL Compliance Officers and the police.

3. What happens if I lose my identifier?

If you have lost or had your identifier stolen you must notify TPH immediately. In the interim, they will issue a letter stating you are waiting for your replacement to be delivered and can continue working.

4. I saw a Yellow Badge holder in central London. Should I confront them about this?

There are a number of reasons why a Yellow Badge holder may legitimately be in central London or in a sector other than those for which they are licensed, including:

·         Dropping off fares that started in their sector but ended outside it;
·         Picking up fares that were pre-booked when the driver was in their sector;
·         The driver is licensed for one of the two extension areas; and
·         The driver is plying for hire at an ‘island rank’.

If the Yellow Badge holder was plying for hire outside their designated area, a written warning will be the norm for a first offence in the period of the current and preceding licence. Unless there is significant mitigation, a second offence will result in a suspension for one month, and a third offence in the same period will result in revocation of the driver’s licence.

Even if the Yellow Badge holder was not in central London for a legitimate reason, the correct action to take is to report this to TPH. Their guidance states that “any driver found confronting another driver for any reason risks having their suitability to be licensed reviewed which may ultimately lead to their licence being suspended or revoked.”

5. I copied my mate’s identifier and the police caught me. What will happen?

The Driver and Operator Policy Manager at TPH has said: “I must stress that any driver found using a forged or fake identifier will have their licence suspended pending the outcome of the police investigation and any subsequent court case. To date a number of drivers have been arrested and investigations are ongoing.”

6. I don’t agree with the decision to revoke/suspend my licence. Can I appeal?

Any taxi driver who is dissatisfied with the decision of TfL to suspend or revoke his taxi driver's licence may, within 28 days, ask TfL to reconsider its decision. You may be accompanied by a legal or other representative at this hearing. The hearing is primarily an opportunity for you to speak for yourself and to bring attention to matters which you feel TfL should take into consideration in reviewing its decision. Even when you are represented you will be encouraged to speak for yourself. You should be notified of the outcome of the reconsideration within 28 days. Unless the revocation or suspension is with immediate effect for public safety reasons, drivers can continue working while the appeal is ongoing. If the you are not satisfied with the result of the reconsideration by TfL you may then appeal the result, within 28 days, to the appropriate magistrates’ court.

Please get in touch with any member of the team at Geoffrey Miller Solicitors on 08000 85 27 84 if you are a taxi driver needing expert legal help. Don't forget to mention our special offer of a 10% discount on fees...

Monday, 14 May 2012

Mobility Scooter Confusion- Guest Blog By Jonathan Berry

Mr. Barry Dobner was recently prosecuted for having knocked down an 85 year-old woman while driving his battery powered mobility scooter. Mr. Dobner admitted to drink driving and ran down an elderly woman. The female collapsed to the floor with a cut to her leg and a bump on the head which required hospital treatment.

Mr. Dobner was alleged to have driven away after the incident and returned to the scene some time later and spoke to police. Mr. Dobner was then breathalysed and gave a breath reading of 43 microgrammes (µg) of alcohol. This clearly puts Mr. Dobner over the legal limit which is 35 µg. 

Motorists driving "mechanically propelled vehicles" on the road who are found to be driving whilst under the influence of alcohol are governed by a very different law to that of an electric mobility scooter driver. Senior partner of the firm, Jeanette Miller recently wrote a blog on's site about this very topic.

Mobility Scooter Drivers Do Not Require Driving Licences 

Section 12 of the Licensing Act 1872 is relevant for incidents involving mobility scooters and bikes which states that it is an offence to be riding a cycle or to be in charge of any “carriage, horse or cattle” when drunk. Mr. Dobner may be surprised to find out that his mobility scooter would come under the title of ‘carriage’, rather than mechanically propelled vehicle.

This archaic law requires the court to be satisfied that the driver was drunk. Merely suggesting that he was over the legal limit will not be enough to secure a conviction.
There is also no lawful right for the police to request a breath, blood or urine sample to be provided in these circumstances. Despite this, Mr. Dobner was asked to give a breath reading which the police had no lawful right to request.
Although the prosecution is in our view erroneous in law, Mr. Dobner appeared at South Sefton Magistrates and admitted drink driving. The judge banned him from driving for a year and he was also fined £150 with £85 costs.
This decision was based on the fact that the judge has classed the mobility scooter as a ‘mechanically-propelled vehicle’ and that it is ‘unlawful to drink to excess and drive it on a public road or in a public place under Section 4 of the Road Traffic Act.

The ancient Licensing Act would have been more appropriately applied in this case and would have given rise to a fine of up to £200 or one month in prison. We consider the Judge in this case to have erred in law as he had no power to ban Mr. Dobner from driving. Particularly as a mobility scooter driver does not need a driving licence to drive a scooter!

As Mr. Dobner was involved in a collision with an elderly lady, it may be deemed too serious to be dealt with by way of fine. Therefore the judge could have relied on an offence under paragraph 35 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861. This could result in a maximum sentence of two years imprisonment if convicted.

We suspect that had he had expert legal representation, Dobner's driving licence would have been saved. There clearly is a need for clarification of the position for mobility scooters, not just for scooter drivers but also for the judiciary!

Friday, 4 May 2012

How To Avoid Motoring Convictions During London 2012

Guest Blog: By Alison Ashworth, paralegal at Geoffrey Miller Solicitors

The Olympics are on their way, and will bring with them a host of games specific crimes.

Stay on the right side of the law during London 2012

If you’re intending to attend any of the games, you had better make sure you bought your ticket from an authorised ticket reseller.  Buying from a ticket tout could lead to paying twice the price, having your bank details stolen and could ultimately mean that you travel to the venue to be told that your tickets are fake.

If you have bought excess tickets, you should also beware of the law relating to ticket touting. If you are found selling, offering to sell, or even advertising Olympic tickets to make a profit you would face prosecution leading to a fine of up to £20,000.

Further fakery related to the games could also lead to prosecution. Many con artists have seized the Olympics as an opportunity to make a quick buck by selling apparently “authentic” Olympic merchandise. Buying knock off gear on the cheap could not only leave you with faulty and poor quality goods, it would also be rewarding organized crime and leaving legitimate traders out of pocket.

Those found to be peddling counterfeit Olympic merchandise will be potentially liable for a number of offences including infringement of the Trade Marks, Copyright,Design and Patents Acts. Harsh penalties of up to ten years imprisonment and potentially unlimited fines for the most serious trademark offences could be imposed.

Security will be extra tight on the streets of London during the games. Police will be cracking down on crimes like street trading, petty theft and street drinking. The increased police presence will equate to the highest concentration of firearms in this country ever. Police are on alert to be extra vigilant for all types of offences including driving offences such as drink driving.

Whilst you are unlikely to have a gun pointed at you for drink driving, you may be pointing a gun at your own head by getting behind the wheel of a car after one too many. The other serious consequence of being found drink driving is an automatic disqualification from driving for a minimum of 12 months. 

Even if you are completely sensible and ensure that you are sober when behind the wheel you could still be stopped for being under suspicion of driving whilst under the influence. If for some reasons you cannot produce the breath sample the police request from you you could face an even harsher penalty for the alcohol related offence of failing to provide a specimen.

There are further driving related pit falls to be aware of during the Olympics-   specific networks of roads interconnecting the Olympic and Paralympic sites are considered to be hotspots where drivers may be stopped.   The networks will pass through Greater London, and spread through the south of England.  To identify whether your street will be affected by the route, please use the following tool on the transport for London website

Some streets that are incorporated onto the Olympic route will be easy to identify by the existence of Games Lanes.  These restricted access lanes will only be capable of being used by select groups of people. If you’re wondering whether or not you qualify to use the lane the answer is probably not! Use of the lane is restricted to the athletes themselves, games officials, members of the media, emergency services and games organisers.  Being caught using a Games Lane when not entitled to do so could land you with a penalty charge notice (Parking ticket) and a £200 fine.

The  Olympic/Paralympic networks will be subject to a number of  other restrictions (such as no parking, turning or stopping)  which may be less obvious to spot.

Drivers who are local to the affected routes may think they are already familiar with the roads but they must beware- subtle changes may catch you off guard!  Less obvious changes may include changes in the timings of traffic signals and suspension of some parking bays.

If you are caught falling foul of these temporary measures you could face “civil penalties” such as a fine or could even have your vehicle towed on the spot. If you are unlucky enough to be caught out by a red light or other traffic sign you could be issued with penalty points. Tot up too many of these (12) and you could end up in court and face an automatic ban of 6 months.