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Asleep at the wheel

Although Sheldrake led to the reversal of the burden of proof in drink-driving cases, defendants may have a tougher time securing an acquittal, says Rodney Noon

28 March 2003

On 24 February 2003 the Divisional Court (Clarke LJ, Henriques and Jack JJ) gave judgment in Sheldrake v DPP [2003] EWHC 273, The Times, 25 February. This was the second time the appeal had been heard. On the first occasion a two-man Divisional Court was irreconcilably divided and the case had to be re-heard. The facts of the case were not difficult or unusual. On 9 February 2001 the defendant was found asleep in his van with the doors locked. He was breathalysed and gave a reading of 144 micro grammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath. He was more than four times over the legal limit. Expert evidence showed that it would be at least 11.40am before his alcohol levels fell below the prescribed limit. The defendant sought to rely on the statutory defence. The justices were not persuaded and held he had not proved on a balance of probabilities that there was no likelihood of his driving while in excess of the prescribed alcohol limit. As the law was understood and applied, the deci...

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