Defences in driving cases
Produced in partnership with Daniel David Taylor of Red Lion Chambers

The following Corporate Crime practice note produced in partnership with Daniel David Taylor of Red Lion Chambers provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Defences in driving cases
  • Defendant to raise their defence
  • Automatism as a defence
  • Insanity as a defence
  • Duress and necessity
  • Mechanical defect
  • Intoxication
  • The hip flask defence

Defences in driving cases

Defendant to raise their defence

A number of defences may apply in road traffic cases. These include:

  1. automatism

  2. insanity

  3. duress and necessity, and

  4. the 'hip flask' defence

When the defendant relies on a specific defence, they must place sufficient evidence before the court to properly raise the issue at trial. This is known as the 'evidential burden'. It must be distinguished from the legal burden of proof, which places an obligation on a party to proof a fact in issue. The prosecution ordinarily bears the legal burden of proof. See Practice Note: Burden and standard of proof in criminal proceedings.

The 'evidential burden' can be satisfied by the defendant entering the witness box and giving details of their defence. Therefore, once raised by the defendant, the onus then falls on the prosecution to prove, to the criminal standard (beyond reasonable doubt), that the defence raised is not true.

In cases of the defence of insanity or where the defendant relies on the 'hip flask' defence, the defence bear both the legal burden of proof and the evidential burden.

Automatism as a defence

The defence of ‘automatism’ can be relied upon if it is shown that a defendant become unconscious or otherwise unable to control the vehicle, through no fault of their own, for example, a blow on the head from a stone. In certain circumstances this defence

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