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  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?