Monday, 31 March 2014

Using Your Imagination Is Against The Law!

By Stephen Oldham, Solicitor and senior member of the Geoffrey Miller team

In the spirit of April Fools’ Day we have trawled the government’s website and found some laws that you would be forgiven for thinking were part of an April Fools’ gag! All of the laws are shown by the site as still being in force. We hope that the government’s data is up-to-date.
Don’t imagine deposing the Queen!
The Treason Act 1848 says:
“If any person whatsoever shall, within the United Kingdom or without, compass, imagine, invent, devise, or intend to deprive or depose our Most Gracious Lady the Queen, from the style, honour, or royal name of the imperial crown of the United Kingdom…”
So it seems that if you were just to imagine deposing the Queen you could be guilty of treason. The law goes on to say that you would be punished
to be transported beyond the seas for the term or his or her natural life”.
We think that deportation is no longer allowed but it could be a good way to get your fare paid to visit relatives in Australia!!
Don’t get drunk in the pub!

It might not be a surprise to know that it is illegal to be found drunk in the street but you might be shocked to know that it is illegal to be drunk in the pub!!
Section 12 of the Licensing Act 1872 is still in force. I says that
Every person found drunk … on any licensed premises, shall be liable to a penalty.”
Fortunately you can’t be thrown in jail but you could be landed with a hefty fine.
No driving cattle through London between 10am and 7pm
The Metropolitan Streets Act 1867 prohibits the driving or conducting of any cattle through any street between the hours of 10.00 in the morning and 7.00 in the evening except with the permission of the Commissioner of Police. Any person driving or conducting cattle in contravention of this section shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding ten shillings for each head of cattle so driven or conducted.
No riding in a taxi if you have a disease
It is illegal for a person (knowingly) with a notifiable disease to use a taxi or try and ride on a bus. The law prohibits any person who knows that they have a notifiable disease (including the plague, cholera, small pox, relapsing fever) from entering any form of public conveyance (taxi) without first telling the driver of the conveyance. The taxi driver should also not allow the person to ride if they know they suffer from a notifiable disease. However, if they do, they must then have the cab immediately disinfected. This is part of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984, sections 33 and 34: Public Conveyances. Both offences are liable to summary conviction of a fine not exceeding level 1.
No splashing people
According to the magistrates in Chelmsford it is illegal to splash people by driving through a puddle. Motorist Samuel Lees was convicted of driving without due care and attention when he soaked a mother and her children. He was even given 6 penalty points and a fine of £500.
Don’t blow your nose or even eat an apple when you are driving
According to this article in theDaily Telegraph the police have been pretty enthusiastic in prosecuting motorist for things that some people might think are every day occurrences.

  • ·      Eating an apple whilst carrying out a perfectly executed left turn;
  • ·      Blowing your nose whilst stationary in traffic with the handbrake on; and
  • ·      A man was even stopped in Liverpool for laughing whilst driving. He got away with a warning not to do it again!
Some more laws that we have heard of

There are plenty more laws that we have heard of that may still be in force. We haven’t been able to verify any of these but they make interesting reading.

  • ·      It is legal for a male to urinate in public, as long it is on the rear wheel of his motor vehicle and his right hand is on the vehicle;
  • ·      A bed may not be hung out of a window;
  • ·      Taxi drivers are required to ask all passengers if they have smallpox or the plague;
  • ·      Any person found breaking a boiled egg at the sharp end will be sentenced to 24 hours in the village stocks (enacted by Edward VI)
  • ·      Any boy under the age of 10 may not see a naked mannequin;
  • ·      Throughout the whole of England it is illegal to eat mince pies on the 25th of December;
  • ·      In the Cathedral Close of Hereford and within the city walls of Chester it is legal to shoot a Welshman with a long bow. It is also legal to shoot a Scotsman within the city walls of York, providing he is carrying a bow and arrow, except on Sundays of course! These laws were made to keep out Welsh and Scottish invasions before Britain became united as one.
Some of these laws are clearly laughable but it is no laughing matter if you are accused of a motoring offence that could see you lose your licence, or in extreme cases, lose your liberty! Our team of motoring law experts will be able to guide you through options that you may not know to be available and bring relief to what we understand can be a very trying time. Give us a call on 08000 85 27 84 for a no strings chat if you are in need of advice on any motoring matter.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

#DRIVINGSELFIE – More like #DRIVINGSELFISHNESS! Guest blog by Vicky Miller

Have you joined the #drivingselfie craze? When the heads of states are at it, at Mandela's funeral no-less, and then the mass hysteria that followed Ellen's famous Oscars "selfie", it is no surprise that the craze has spread to the UK!


Well before you think about taking a quick "selfie" behind the wheel – think again!

It has been reported today by research conducted by that 1 in 14 motorists (7% of drivers) have taken a shameless "selfie" whilst driving. The most common culprits being those aged between 18-24 years with 1 in 10 admitting to using Snapchat whilst driving. With the recent launch of Snapchat it has become common place to send your friends, family and in fact anyone on your contact list the most random photos you can find. Most will think this is harmless fun without even thinking of the implications and risks this may cause to themselves and other road users. In fact, you will also be breaking the law!

Taking your eyes and hands off the wheel for even a split second could result in an accident. It has been found that 1 in 10 motorists who have used their mobile phone whilst driving have had an accident as a result. In our experience, when the police are investigate any serious collision, they immediately seize mobile phones, laptops and iPads to check whether or not they were in use during the course of the journey. A serious accident combined with mobile phone use will almost certainly result in a charge of dangerous driving which carries a possible 2 year prison sentence.

If you are caught mid-pose by the police you could be issued an on the spot fine and 3 penalty points for what they will say is “not being in proper control of your motor vehicle” or usingyour mobile phone whilst driving, which last year the police issued 118,000 of these out. In the more serious circumstances the police could charge you with careless driving which could result in a 3-9 penalty points, a disqualification and a hefty fine.

If you are someone who likes to keep up with the trends and send quirky selfies to your friends then don’t let this killjoy deter you! By all means, keep taking selfies, even whilst you are in your car, as long as it’s parked up with the engine off that is!

Guest Blog by Vicky Miller

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Happiness is NOT a ‘car park’ called the M62 - Guest Author - Paul Loughlin

Does it make you happy sitting at the traffic lights watching a guy in a Volkswagen Passat, who is unavoidably in your eye line, going to great lengths clearing out the contents of his nose with his finger?! Me neither! With today being National Happiness Day I took some time to think about how driving can make me happy… or in deed quite the opposite!

Many of my team at the Manchester office, myself included,  have a peak hour commute that can feel like a working day before getting into the office, such is their commitment to the cause! In fact many of us are increasingly having to suffer these journeys. TomTom released the 6th edition of its Traffic Index in November 2013 which showed that on average British commuters are spending 9 working days per year stuck in traffic.

It is unsurprising then that we are receiving a number of enquiries on a daily basis relating to incidents where inconsiderate driving or even in some situations dangerous driving has been alleged. A number of people are looking to defend or to plead guilty and mitigate for a moment of madness caused by the build-up of stress on the roads.

The impact of the build-up of stress and anxiety on the roads is such that a concept is being developed by researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology to embed facial recognition into steering wheels. This is aimed to detect angry or upset drivers! Amongst its other features is to measure the percentage of eyelid closure for drivers to detect driver fatigue.

This is clearly a sign that driving and the stresses associated with it is becoming more and more relevant in everyday lives. Everything we do on the roads now is scrutinised to the extent that the man picking his nose could be cited by the police officer driving in the lane next to him for not being in proper control of his vehicle (an offence that carries 3 penalty points and a £100 fine).  Just as easily, an incident of road rage stemming from a frustrating morning of stop/start traffic on the M62 could lead to being reported for dangerous driving if you undertake a particularly frustrating ‘fast’ lane driver.

A study carried out by Three Barrels Brandy in 2011 found that out of the top 50 things that make us happy only three of them related to driving:
  • At number 46 was the unexpected joy of being given an unexpired car parking ticket by someone leaving the car park on your arrival.
  • Slightly higher was the feeling of passing your driving test which was placed at number 42.
  •  As high as number 12 was the feeling of letting go when you drive with your window down on a sunny day.

The thought of driving in modern Britain is more likely to fill people with dread and anxiety rather than thinking of the stress releasing feeling of driving on the open road, with your window down on a sunny day with your favourite Oasis songs blurring from your stereo. Even then you have to be aware not to get too enthusiastic to the extent that you inadvertently go over the speed limit and get caught by a speed camera you were unaware of or a mobile unit you didn’t see until the last minute!

We at Geoffrey Miller Solicitors specialise in all matters relating to driving offences and are here to make sure that your driving experience, happy or not, can continue by helping to keep hundreds of motorists on the road each year and making sure that the demands of modern life can be met and ultimately keeping you happy!

Guest Blog Author  - Paul Loughlin

Saturday, 15 March 2014

The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers. -William Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part 2

I remember when I went to a gold Duke of Edinburgh awards ceremony back in 2010. I was lucky enough to not only meet Prince Phillip but I also received a guided tour of St James’ Palace with my other half which was simply breath-taking. Sadly, however, we shared the day with another couple who, when they discovered I was a lawyer, said in unison without any qualms, “We hate lawyers!” I thought they were joking at first but soon realised they truly did despise my profession and as a consequence, me!

So what is it about us legal folk that makes us so unpopular?

I specialise in two areas of law that come in for a lot of criticism from the press and the general public so I suppose I experience a double whammy when it comes to trying to overcome preconceptions.

I established boutique personal injury law firm, JS Miller Solicitors, in 2001 when I had a strong desire to help those who could not help themselves to right a wrong. Since then I have helped countless clients achieve justice and supported them through when can only be described as horrific accidents and the devastating losses they can bring to the victim. That doesn’t stop some from brandishing me and my colleagues as an “ambulance chaser!” If only they knew the dedication, passion and hard work that is invested in our clients’ cases…

Then, in 2005, I was forced to expand into the area of motoring law due to my father, the founder of Geoffrey Miller Solicitors, unexpected ill health. I had dabbled in criminal law as a trainee solicitor but had chosen against working in that field mainly because of the unsociable hours and unpleasant clientele I encountered. (Being accosted at the police station by a client who wasn’t getting bail being a particular highlight!)

Even though I chose against a “life of crime” or at least, a career in the world of criminal law, I never once blamed the lawyers for their clients’ misdemeanours. Those who take the view that the lawyers who defend the accused are to blame for the alleged crime should go and live in North Korea where there is no such thing as a democracy! Don’t get me wrong, when I hear of murder cases and heinous crimes being tried at court, I get shivers like the majority. I have the natural reaction of putting myself in the shoes of the victims and feel blessed to have my family and loved ones around me, well away from anything like the horrors sometimes uncovered in court.

I would be far more horrified, however, to live in a country where the accused is denied representation or the right to defend themselves because the crime they are accused of is something the majority thinks is heinous.

In my motoring practice, I represent clients for offences ranging from causing death by dangerous driving to drink driving and minor motoring charges. I can understand why motoring offences get people hot under the collar but I can also understand my clients, some of whom suffer from addiction issues, or have simply made one off foolish errors of judgement. If ever I decided not to pursue a valid legal point or exploit a “loophole” in my client’s defence, because it would be seen by some as morally wrong, then I would be negligent.

Solicitors’ duties are defined by the Solicitors Regulation Authority:
You must:
1.    uphold the rule of law and the proper administration of justice;
2.    act with integrity;
3.    not allow your independence to be compromised;
4.    act in the best interests of each client;
5.    provide a proper standard of service to your clients;
6.    behave in a way that maintains the trust the public places in you and in the provision of legal services;
7.    comply with your legal and regulatory obligations and deal with your regulators and ombudsmen in an open, timely and co-operative manner;
8.    run your business or carry out your role in the business effectively and in accordance with proper governance and sound financial and risk management principles;
9.    run your business or carry out your role in the business in a way that encourages equality of opportunity and respect for diversity; and
10. protect client money and assets.

Nowhere does it state that the lawyer must decide who is truly innocent or what is morally acceptable and only represent them. 

My job is not to judge. My job is to do whatever is lawful and in the best interests of my client whilst complying with my duties to the court and professional obligations.

So next time you are tempted to think disparaging thoughts about my profession, remember this quote and take up your gripe with those who make the laws, not those who interpret them:

Monday, 3 March 2014

Motoring Law Advice For New Drivers Starting An Apprenticeship

Today is the first day of NationalApprentice Week. Many apprenticeships will involve the need for a clean licence to drive to and from the apprenticeship itself or possibly to perform the apprentice role. Most apprentices will be classed as a "New Driver" and so we have set out some of the basics to ensure that all new drivers are fully equipped for the extra miles their apprenticeships may entail.

There is the risk that the more miles you drive the more likely you will commit minor motoring offences. We know that many low speed offences are more often than not unintentional. However, you should bear in mind that in addition to driving within the relevant speed limits, even checking Facebook or sending a “Snapchat” on your phone could result in 3 penalty points or even worse, an allegation of careless or dangerous driving.

Snapchat whilst driving at your peril!

As part of your apprenticeship you may be driving through unfamiliar areas meeting clients, working on sites and you may be doing your best to keep in contact with your new employers. Not paying attention to the road, speeding or being on your phone could result in a fixed penalty ticket of 3 points and £100 fine.
The majority of motoring offences carry endorsement which means you are likely to receive penalty points or a disqualification from driving.  

All new drivers who have held their full UK licence must be aware of the “New Driver” provisions. If you were to receive 6 penalty points within the first two years of having passed your driving test, the DVLA would have no option but to revoke your licence.

Any points that you have accrued before passing your test that are on your provisional licence will lay dormant on your driving record. This does not mean that once you pass your driving test your licence will be automatically revoked, it is only when further points are added that this will trigger the new driver provisions. 
Unfortunately, these provisions can be devastating if your apprenticeship requires you to be able to drive. 
The revocation means you will be unable to drive again on a full UK licence until you have passed both your theory and practical driving tests again.

During the revocation period you could apply for your provisional licence again. Once you have the provisional licence you must only drive if you have a passenger in the vehicle who is aged over 21 and has held a full UK driving licence for over 3 years. You must also display L plates and be fully insured to drive the vehicle.

Once you have passed all of the requirements to get your full licence back, the new driver provisions will not apply to you again. You can only be caught once by the new driver provisions with the same type of licence. If you subsequently pass another kind of driving test (for example, a motorcycle licence) the new driver provisions would apply to this licence.

As a precautionary measure remember these three tips to avoid being caught out by the new driver rules:  

  1. Do not use your mobile phone whilst driving unless the vehicle is stationary and turned off;
  2. Always stick to the speed limit and if you are unsure drive at 30mph in built up areas; and
  3. Ensure you are in proper control of your vehicle at all times – so not eating a Big Mac whilst you are driving!