Driver CPC challenge heads to High Court

Challenge on 'misinterpretation' of Driver CPC implementation goes higher

A challenge to the lawfulness of the Driver CPC Regulations on the grounds that the EU Directive has been misinterpreted is heading to the High Court after Bolton Crown Court dismissed an appeal by Hull PSV driver Craig Watts.

Mr Watts had been convicted by Bury Magistrates of failing to have undertaken periodic Driver CPC training, being fined £110 and ordered to pay £400 prosecution costs plus a £20 victim surcharge.

He appealed against his conviction to Bolton Crown Court on the basis that the Vehicle Drivers (Certificates of Professional Competence) Regulations 2007 were null and void in law

Mr Watts, who had been a Class D licence holder since 10 September 2008, was checked when his vehicle was at Birch Services on the M62 motorway by DVSA Traffic Examiner Christine Finnegan, and found not to be in possession of a Driver CPC card.

He appealed against his conviction to Bolton Crown Court on the basis that the Vehicle Drivers (Certificates of Professional Competence) Regulations 2007 were null and void in law and of no effect because of the exemption contained in paragraph 11 of the EU Directive that stated: “This Directive should not affect the rights acquired by a driver who has held the driving licence necessary to carry out the activity of driving since before the date laid down for obtaining a CPC certifying the corresponding initial qualification or the periodic training” (RouteONE, Court Report, 23 March).

For the DVSA, Alex Menany said that all the facts were agreed. The only issue was effectively whether the EU Directive was null and void. Crown Court appeals did not normally deal with such a matter of law.

Although the appropriate route was to go to the High Court, he argued that the law was so clear that the Crown Court could deal with the case. However, whatever decision the Court made it was susceptible to further challenge.

Recorder Eric Lamb said the Court’s duty was to apply the law as it was. If the true purpose of the appeal was to seek some sort of declaration that that piece of legislation should be struck out, this was the wrong Court to deal with it.

For Mr Watts, Ashley Barnes said the defence were not saying there was anything wrong with the EU Directive, but were saying that the regulations that brought it into force went beyond what the Directive allowed. If that was so the Directive had not been enabledHe argued that the Crown Court had the power to rule on secondary legislation.

Dismissing the appeal, Recorder Lamb said that it appeared to be common ground that if the regulations were valid then there was no issue over whether Mr Watts was in breach of them. On an appeal from a magistrate’s court the Crown Court’s powers were the same as the magistrates.

Such appeals occurred essentially when the magistrates had misinterpreted the law or were in error on a finding of fact.

That was not the case here and the Court had to apply the law as it stood, namely valid regulations brought in by the Secretary of State.

An application for Mr Watts to pay the DVSA’s costs of £350 was refused.