Drink Driving Duress Case Successful At Appeal
by Katie Forrest, paralegal
We are delighted to share this recent case study, for a client who pleaded not guilty to a charge of drink driving on the basis of duress and was found not guilty at Appeal.
While we care deeply about every case we work on, there are some cases that particularly affect us, and this was one of them.
Lucy contacted us last year, in a state of upset. She had instructed a very well known motoring firm to deal with her case, and felt that they were not giving her case any time or attention. She suspected that while she could afford their fees, she wasn’t celebrity enough for them. She felt let down and incredibly scared.
I bonded with Lucy immediately. She is a wonderful, strong woman who has been through Hell for over 10 years as a victim of domestic abuse.
On the night in question, she had been at a friend’s house, something her controlling and physically violent husband hated. He had been harassing her all day, telling her to return to the marital home. Eventually, he spoke to her by phone and told her he was on his way to her friend’s house with a gun, unless she left immediately.
Lucy left and made the short drive home. She had had some alcohol to drink, as she intended to stay overnight at her friend’s house.
Unbeknownst to her, as she left, her husband rang the police and reported her as a drink driver. She was stopped at her home and was found to be over the limit.
Lucy had pleaded not guilty on the grounds of duress – basically, she had no choice but to drive whilst over the limit.
Duress cases are very difficult in this country, as the Court’s common response when hearing any situation that may cause duress is that the person should have rang the emergency services for assistance.
In this case, Lucy was very familiar with calling the police, and she knew that she was punished afterwards for doing so. She had learnt that, in reality, the police could not offer her protection from her husband.
After my initial conversation with Lucy, she was very keen to transfer her case to me.
Her trial was just days away.
I was happy to accept her case as I felt so strongly about helping her. I made an application with the Court for them to adjourn the trial to allow me preparation time, but while they considered my request, I got on with ensuring we would be trial ready if we had to be. There were early mornings, late nights, and lots of contact with Lucy over the weekend. I still remember her surprise that I was prepared to speak to her on a Sunday evening!
Fortunately, the Court did allow an adjournment, giving us a few weeks to prepare Lucy’s case.
Lucy’s story was truly heartbreaking, and whilst the law in this area is challenging, each case has to be assessed on its own merits and I hoped that we would be successful.
At trial, Lucy’s case was heard by a District Judge who made such scathing comments about her situation that I made a formal complaint against him. In particular, he asked Lucy why on earth she had allowed the abuse to continue, and suggested she should shoulder some of the blame because of that.
Needless to say, she was found guilty by that judge.
I lodged an Appeal for Lucy and chose Annette Henry QC as the barrister for her Appeal.
In my first conversation with Annette about this case, she told me “this will be a case that haunts me for the rest of my life”.
At Appeal, our thorough preparation and Annette’s advocacy skills were strong enough to counter the robust prosecutor, and Lucy was found not guilty of drink driving, due to duress.
Lucy is absolutely overjoyed and is free to move on with her life.
These are the cases that stay with us for life. They are the reason we work incredibly hard and throw our hearts into what we do.
If you have been charged with drink driving and are looking for drink drive duress solicitors, call us now for an honest opinion on 01623 397200.