Aggravated vehicle taking causing death – Supreme Court judgement

Andrew McGee has succeeded in a significant appeal to the Supreme Court on the true construction of the offence of aggravated vehicle taking causing death.

Appearing as a junior alone for the appellant, Jack Taylor, Andrew argued before a 7 justice court that the aggravated vehicle taking offence under section 12A(1) and (2)(b) of the Theft Act 1968 should be construed as requiring an element of fault. The Crown (represented by Steven Kovats QC and Duncan Atkinson, Senior Treasury Counsel) contended that the offence was one of strict (or situational) liability, as the Court of Appeal had ruled in R v Marsh [1997] 1 Cr App Rep 67. The Crown also contended that the recent Supreme Court ruling in R v Hughes [2013] UKSC56; [2013] 1 WLR 2461, relied on by the appellant, had been incorrectly decided and should be departed from in this case.

In a judgment handed down by Sumption SCJ on 3rd February 2016, the court affirmed the judgment in R v Hughes and went on to rule that the aggravated vehicle taking offence was not one of strict liability but required an element of fault in the same terms as that expressed in Hughes – i.e. “at least some act or omission in the control of the car, which involves some element of fault, whether amounting to careless/inconsiderate driving or not, and which contributes in some more than minimal way to the death.”

The full judgment can be found here

Andrew, instructed by Katrina Byrne at Trinity Advocates, Exeter, represented Jack Taylor at all stages of these proceedings from the initial argument before the Recorder of Exeter in the Crown Court through the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) to the Supreme Court, where oral argument was heard over the course a full day (15th December 2015).

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