Marlon Miller v. Director of Public Prosecutions
 EWHC 595 (Admin)
High Court of Justice Queens Bench Division Administrative Court
25 March 2004
The applicant was given three speeding tickets in February 1999 and a warrant was issued for him to attend a hearing to potentially have his license revoked. The warrant was not executed for two years and the applicant argued that the delay violated his right to a speedy trial under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The High Court agreed and reduced his license disqualification period from 12 to 5 months.
The applicant was given three speeding tickets in February 1999. The applicant pled guilty to these offenses by post and did not attend the initial hearing on 6 May 1999. The justices issued a warrant for the applicant to force him to attend the next hearing since they were considering taking away his driving license. It was illegal for the court to issue this warrant, however, since the court did not first give written notice to the applicant. The warrant was not executed for two years due to police error, which meant that the applicant was first telephoned by the police in May 2001 and informed there was a warrant for his arrest. At the 14 May 2001 hearing, the applicant complained of the delay and the case was adjourned and delayed several times for several different reasons until 2 August 2001.
The appellant contended that the delay in the disposal of the case was an infringement of Article 6 and that in those circumstances he should be permitted to change his plea to not guilty and to have the case against him dismissed for breach of the Convention right as to a trial within a reasonable time. The justices rejected those arguments, holding that whilst the delay was excessive for a case of this type it did not warrant either a finding of abuse of process or dismissal of the charges on the grounds of an infringement of Article 6.
On 6 September the justices dealt with all outstanding matters. As to sentence, they fined the appellant £150 in respect of each offence. His licence was endorsed with 4 penalty points in respect of each offence. It was already subject to two endorsements for speeding offences in July 2000. The total number of penalty points was such that the justices disqualified him for 12 months under the totting up provisions of s.35 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988.
The applicant completed six months of his suspension until the suspension was suspended by the appeals court. The case eventually made it to the High Court.
The appellant's case in brief is that there was a breach of Article 6 since, in relation to issues as simple as those raised by the three informations against the appellant, a delay of over 2 years in the determination of the case against him was unreasonable. No complaint is made about the delay from the laying of the information to the return date on the summonses. It is said that a reasonable period from then until the sentencing hearing would have been about 1 month. The whole of the additional time that the claimant had to wait until sentencing was unreasonable delay. That includes the period of almost 2 years until the matter came back before the court in May 2001, none of which was the fault of the appellant. It also includes the period of over 3 months from then until the final hearing on 6 September 2001, which again was not the fault of the appellant.
The respondent conceded that there was an unreasonable delay and the High Court agreed: “a total period of over 2 years in the magistrates' court and a further year or so in time wasted over the appeal, in such a simple case with guilty pleas, was excessive and in breach of Article 6.” As a result, the High Court reduced the disqualification to five months to ensure that the applicant faced no more days of driving disqualification.
Speeding tickets do not a villain make.