No Jurisdiction Means No Conviction
Our client in this case was alleged to have used a mobile phone whilst driving, in contravention of section 41D(b) of the Road Traffic Act 1988. Being convicted of the charge would carry a minimum of 6 penalty points although the Court, as in most road traffic offences, also has a power of discretionary disqualification.
We were instructed to plead not guilty due to the simple fact that our client denied committing the offence. He accepted picking up his phone to look at it, and indeed this position was confirmed by the statements of the police witnesses. What the police didn’t quite understand is that being distracted by your phone is a separate and distinct offence to using it, attracting a mandatory 3 penalty points and covered by the Road Traffic Act 1988 section 41D(a).
However, all of this was ultimately academic as the case headed off on a tangent. Our eagle eye spotted what is known as a ‘fundamental nullity’ in the charge libelled: effectively, what was stated on it did not sufficiently identify the alleged offence as having occurred within the jurisdiction of Fort William Justice of the Peace Court. This is essential for a competent charge and once we had raised the issue with the Procurator Fiscal’s office they had no option other than to desert proceedings. Furthermore, as over 6 months had now passed since the incident they were unable to re-raise the case afresh with a competent libel owing to the Time Bar relating to mobile phone offences.
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