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Conviction U-turn 'not a green light for misuse of mobile phones'


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Call to review law after court ruling on driver who filmed crash scene on phone.

Mobile phone use: Campaigners want an update to legislation

Mobile phone use: Campaigners want an update to legislation

Date - 1st August 2019
By - Nick Hudson - Police Oracle
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High Court judges who overturned a police prosecution of a man caught filming behind the wheel have said their decision is not a “green light” to use mobile phones while driving.

Lawyers and safety campaigners called on the Government to review legislation following yesterday’s ruling.

Builder Ramsey Barreto was convicted of driving while using a phone after he filmed at the scene of a road accident in Ruislip, west London.

But on Wednesday wo senior judges found that the law he was prosecuted under does not ban mobile phone use for reasons other than "interactive communication" – such as calls and messages.

However, Lady Justice Thirlwall and Mr Justice Goss said motorists could still face prosecution for careless or dangerous driving and there was no "green light" for drivers to use phones for other purposes.

Lady Justice Thirlwall 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)."

She added: "It should not be thought that this is a green light for people to make films as they drive.

"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 which may be prosecuted and on conviction may result in the imposition of penalties significantly more serious than those which flow from breach of the regulations.

"The same applies to any other use of the phone while driving."

Mr Barreto was seen by a police officer holding his phone up to his car window for 10 to 15 seconds as he drove past the scene of a serious accident in August 2017.

He was convicted in July last year, after a magistrates' court trial, of driving while using a hand-held mobile phone – under the terms of the Road Traffic Act and the Road Vehicles Regulations.

But after his conviction was overturned on appeal at Isleworth Crown Court in October last year, the Director of Public Prosecutions launched a legal challenge.

DPP lawyers argued at a hearing in London in April that the legislation prohibits all phone use while driving.

However, upholding the Crown Court's decision, Lady Justice Thirlwall said the answer to the appeal was in the interpretation of the law "in the terms that Parliament chose to enact it, rather than as it might be assumed to be".

Mr Barreto's lawyers said the law, which was most recently redrafted in 2003, has "failed to keep pace" with technological advances in smartphones.

His solicitor Emma Patterson, of Patterson Law, said her firm had previously argued that Parliament should have "seized the opportunity" to update the law when it revised the penalties for the offence.

She added: "We have always said that it is dangerous to interact with any type of device whilst driving a motor vehicle on a road and it was always open to the police or prosecution to pursue an allegation of driving without due care and attention, or perhaps even dangerous driving.

"That was never the issue. The issue was that the law as it stood created anomalies and confusion.

"We now have the clarity in this judicial precedent to match what we had been correctly advocating on behalf of our clients for many, many years."

Francis Noakes, of the Get Licensed Driving School, said the case showed prosecutions are "far from straightforward".

He added: "When it comes to road safety, we simply can't allow for any uncertainty to exist.

"I'd urge lawmakers to revisit and tighten the legislation as a matter of urgency."

The penalty for driving while using a hand-held mobile phone is six points on an offender's licence and a fine, up to a maximum of £1,000.

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Looks like a pretty wide open goal to me. 

Yes you can go for not in proper control, but that's significantly different from proving phone in use by person in hand. 

And not ticketable. I think. Its been a while 

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To play devils advocate it isn’t really a lot different to interacting with the touch screen in many cars now. Apple car play replicates the screen within the car. 

Ultimately, like most things the law has not kept up at all. A mobile phone in 2003 obviously bears no resemblance to a smartphone today and how we use them.

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