Driver faces prosecution for driving through a puddle


It is the sort of headline you would expect from the Daily Mail, sensationalist, inaccurate and purely designed to add fuel to their ‘this country has gone to the dogs’ fire.

Well half of that is correct. It was in the Mail but it seems as though the headline is right on the money. (See also the article in the Metro).

So, what happened?

The Metro reported that a driver –a 22 year old man thus far unnamed – was driving passed a group of school pupils. He allegedly drove through a puddle ‘soaking’ the group. The incident was seen by PC Mark Hercules who reportedly said:

‘The vehicle was driven through the puddle at a relatively fast speed making no attempt to slow down or avoid it.

‘We could hear the screams from the children as they got drenched in the cold dirty rain water. The motorist drove off. Fortunately, I was able to witness the whole incident.’

The Mail reported that The police officer stopped the motorist and told him he was reporting him for careless driving.

Debbie Pugh was walking with her 8-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter said:

‘My son was crying his eyes out. I was yelling obscenities. I calmed myself down and the next car we saw was a copper’s car.’

What offences might he have committed?

The Metro stated that the Essex police suggested that careless driving was the most obvious choice, and they were right.

 Careless and inconsiderate driving is an offence under Road Traffic Act 1988 s 3:

 ‘If a person drives a mechanically propelled vehicle on a road or other public place without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road or place, he is guilty of an offence.’

The section actually creates two offences and the CPS would need to decide which they are charging (See R v Surrey Justices, ex parte Witherick [1932] 1 K.B. 340)

Where inconsiderate driving is charged, it is necessary to demonstrate that the driving caused a road user or other person in a public place was inconvenienced. For careless driving, there is no such requirement. (See Road Safety Act 2006 s 3ZA(4)).

The CPS legal guidance states that driving through a puddle causing pedestrians to be splashed is likely to be considered to be inconsiderate driving.

The penalty is usually a fine and 3-9 penalty points. The court also has the power to disqualify the driver.

Another option would be for an offence against the person, such as a battery, to be charged.

It is a summary only offence which means there is a maximum penalty of 6 months imprisonment. This is not to be confused with common assault, which has the same maximum penalty but different requirements. The difference between the two is often misunderstood or not appreciated:

An assault is committed when a person intentionally or recklessly causes another to apprehend the immediate infliction of unlawful force.

A battery is committed when a person intentionally and recklessly applies unlawful force to another.

The offence can be committed intentionally or recklessly – that is to say, a person does an act causing unlawful force to be applied to another without the specific intent of doing so, but appreciating that his or her actions are likely to so cause unlawful force to be applied.

So, where a driver has seen the puddle and has continued to drive through it, he or she may be guilty of a battery on the basis that they were reckless as to the unlawful force that would be applied to the pedestrians on the footpath.

Is it ‘unlawful force’?

Simply, yes. Just as throwing an egg at someone would be, causing a wave of water to hit them would also be unlawful force.

What will happen?

We’ll keep an eye on it but expect it to be dealt with by a fine. Is there really a need to bring this to court, and waste everyone’s time and money?

12 thoughts on “Driver faces prosecution for driving through a puddle

  1. drewinvestigates

    British law has gone crazy it really has!! Things are out of hand to the point of ridiculous how on earth can public money be wasted on such a minor and pointless issue, to prosecute someone for such an offence!!

    1. Jaya

      Well if I ever see you I’ll make sure I give you a slap, or perhaps spit on you, as I’m sure you’d agree that prosecuting that would be a waste of time and money?

      (I mean, obviously I wouldn’t, but I don’t see that they are any worse than this.)

    2. Brian Johnson

      This driver will have caused far more harm to the children than the “Naked Rambler” who has effectively been given life imprisonment for doing something which is not unlawful. That is a much bigger waste of public money.

  2. Michael Pace (Road Traffic law specialist)

    I have represented drivers in this same situation.
    the correct offence is Inconsiderate driving. I am a little surprised at tthe last comment. if you are the one who gets drenched by an inconsiderate motorist it can ruin your day.
    most of these cases are dealt with by a caution or a driving course, which in my opinion is the best way because education of drivers brings a more positive outcome

  3. polruan

    I too would agree that this would probably be best dealt with by way of an out of court disposal (providing the said driver is found to have a valid licence, be properly insured, would not become a totter if given any more points, and not to have had previous OoCDs – including courses – for similar offences !).

  4. Alan Jones

    As a former RPU officer. I have reported drivers for Sec 3 RTA 88 ( inconsiderate driving) most, if not all, persons opted for a driving course. Those who have been drenched by a vehicle are more than happy to report the matter to police. Pawley v Wharldall [1965] 2 All ER 757 gives some useful insight.

  5. Stephen

    I think that the driver’s insurance company should foot the bill for cleaning the IP’s clothes and recompense any losses due to the driver’s actions.

    It’s that sort of cover that doctor’s have to have in case they screw up. Along with other professional organisations.

    Some will say that it’s another way to hike premiums up, but maybe then people will start to have more consideration for other road users, be they other drivers, cyclists or pedestrians

  6. Ivan

    @Drewinvestigates misjudges the scale of this serious wrong. It isn’t just a joke and certainly merits legal force to discourage it. You can suffer permanent staining of your clothing. Your possessions – lunch, electronic devices – can be damaged beyond rescue. People may incur costs to arrange dry clothing for the rest of the day.

  7. drewinvestigates

    Ivan I feel that that you are the one misjudging the scale of seriousness of this matter. The water wasn’t poisoned, neither was it boiling hot!! This was no more than a bit of a prank and whilst I do not in any way encourage dangerous acts or driving in an irrational way I do feel that we need to consider the public cost involved in bringing a prosecution for what is seen in law as a petty misdemeanour not a felony. It’s time that we put things in to perspective

    1. polruan

      Since August last year, police officers have new powers to issue fixed penalty notices of £100 with 3 points for both careless and inconsiderate driving (including such reckless road behaviour as lane hogging and tailgating). The option to prosecute more serious cases remains, and courts can impose higher points and fines, as well as impose compensation under certain circumstances.

      The police are also able to offer educational training (at the driver’s cost) as an alternative to endorsement. Drivers are of course able to appeal any decision in court.

      Without knowing the full facts, this seems on the face of it precisely the sort of case that was intended to be covered by these new powers. And as a taxpayer, I would consider that an appropriate use of scarce resources.


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