A recent article in the Telegraph by Jessica Carpani, tells how the door has been opened to motorists to challenge convictions they have been given because he was seen to be driving with a mobile phone in hand.  Sound unlikely?  Well, we thought so too until we found out that the case against a motorist has actually been overturned after he was prosecuted for using his mobile phone, to film a crash on the road. 

The male motorist, who had filmed the accident and been prosecuted for it, then had his case reviewed by 2 senior judges.  They found that the law applies to people using their mobile devices to speak on or to send messages, not when it is being used for filming. They did point out that while filming with a mobile phone was not a specific offence, driving with a mobile phone in hand to film could still be convicted of our old favourite – driving without due care and attention.  They also cautioned that this was not a green-light for motorists to feel that they could use phones for making films while they were behind the wheel. 

Loophole in the law

Those in the legal world think that would have been the time to look at and revise the penalties for the use of mobile phones behind the wheel.  The solicitor for the man whose conviction was overturned, Emma Patterson, was interviewed by the Daily Telegraph and said it was always a bad idea to use any kind of device while you should be concentrating on the road.   She said that the current law was confusing and could lead to anomalies. 

Lady Justice Thirlwall who was also interviewed by Carpani, said: 

The legislation does not prohibit all use of a mobile phone held while driving. It prohibits driving while using a mobile phone or other device for calls and other interactive communication (and holding it at some stage during that process). As I have already said, driving while filming events or taking photographs, whether with a separate camera or with the camera on a phone may be cogent evidence of careless driving and possibly of dangerous driving. It is criminal conduct that may be prosecuted and on conviction may result in the imposition of penalties significantly more serious than those that flow from breach of the regulations. The same applies to any other use of the phone while driving.”

We know the penalties for driving with a mobile phone in hand

We probably all know by now that if we are caught using a mobile phone when we are driving the penalty is 6 points on our license as well as a fine of as much as an eye watering £1000. In the case of the motorist who was prosecuted for using his mobile phone to film while he was driving, he had been observed holding his phone to the window of his car at the time he was driving past a serious accident that had just happened, in 2017. 

He was initially convicted in the magistrate’s court of the crime of driving while using a hand-held mobile phone, as dictated by Road Vehicle Regulation and the Road Traffic Act. The man went on to appeal the decision at the Crown Court in Isleworth in October 2018 where the DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions) set out a legal challenge to the original ruling. 

A hearing in London took place in April of this year at which DPP lawyers put forward the argument that the law, as it stands, prohibits the use of any use of a handheld phone while someone is driving a motor vehicle.   The ruling of the Crown Court however, won the day, and the decision was upheld. 

The lawyers for the motorist who had filmed the accident on his mobile phone say that the law about mobile phone use in cars had not kept pace with the fast-developing technological advances in mobile phone technology. 

This was an interesting case and seems to come down to a loophole in the law.  I’m sure we would all like to see the law updated and loopholes closed in the interest of all of our safety on the roads!

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