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• Suspension by Stealth

20th July 1956, Page 33
20th July 1956
Page 33
Page 33, 20th July 1956 — • Suspension by Stealth
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

0 NE of the provisions of the new Road Traffic Bill, now ending its tortuous path through Parliament, has been declared as designed to deal with the situation created by the High Court cases of Blenkin v. Bell and Woolley v. Moore, both decided in 1952. In fact, its implications are far wider.

The former case decided that where a vehicle could be used for both passengers and goods, but was in fact carrying only passengers, the speed limit of 30 m.p.h. to which it would be subject were it carrying goods did not apply. That decision was based largely on Section 9 (2) of the Road and Rail Traffic Act, 1933, and on the Motor Vehicles (Variation of Speed Limit) Regulations, 1950. Section 9 (2) provides that the conditions of a licence shall not apply while the vehicle is being used for any purpose for which it might lawfully be employed without a licence.

Consternation in High Places Blenkin v. Bell was concerned with a shooting brake. Woolley v. Moore, which seemed to take the matter a good deal farther and caused consternation in high places, applied the same ruling to a van which was not carrying goods, and as a result of both decisions, people who had already been convicted in those circumstances were granted free pardons and had their fines remitted.

Undoubtedly many people still believe that the position as laid down in Woolley v. Moore will remain as it is until it is altered by the Road Traffic Bill becoming law. This is not so, as the Divisional Court made clear in Bryson v. Rogers (The Commercial Motor, July 6).

Because of Woolley v. Moore, the Minister amended the First Schedule to the Road Traffic Act, 1930 (which deals with the speed limits applicable to different classes of vehicle), by means of the Motor Vehicles (Variation of Speed Limit) Regulations, 1955. These deal, at first glance, only with "dual-purpose vehicles," which are elaborately defined so as to include the genuine shooting brake, but to exclude an ordinary van or pick-up. Their effect is to continue the exemption which such vehicles, gained through the Blenkin v. Bell decision.

These regulations give statutory recognition to the Court's decision. But—and it is a big "but "—because the 1955 Regulations also revoke the 1950 Regulations, upon which the decision in relation to vans in Woolley v. Moore was based, the whole substratum of the latter decision has now gone and its effect has been nullified.

This fact has emerged from Bryson v, Rogers, which concerned a pick-up not carrying passengers at the time it was stopped. A major, and largely unnoticed, change in the law has been effected by a negative rather than a positive act.

New Approach to Conditions Why should the Road Traffic Bill apparently also seek to deal with the position created by Blenkin v. Bell and Woolley v. Moore if the effect of the latter case (at least) has already been nullified by the regulations? The answer seems to be that the new clause reframes the whole idea of conditions of licences incorporated by statute.

Instead of making the observance of speed limits and so on conditions of licences—for noncompliance with which a person is not only committing an offence under Section 9 (1), but is also liable to have his licence suspended or revoked under Section 13—the new Bill merely provides that the grounds for revocation or suspension shall include any conviction for their breach. This will have the effect of closing the loophole provided by Section 9 (2) of the 1933 Act, which takes a vehicle outside the conditions of its licence if being used unladen.

Consequently, a conviction for driving an unladen van at over 30 m.p.h. (as in Bryson v. Rogers) would also expose the licence to suspension or revocation, which at present, in such circumstances, is not the case. It is not to be supposed that a Licensing Authority would take such drastic action on isolated offences, but if they were committed regularly by the drivers of a certain employer, he might feel justified in using his new power


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