Legal Terms Explained

‘Special Reasons’ explained in simple terms

What are special reasons?

These have arisen through case law, and amount to reasons which enable a court, to refrain from disqualifying for the commission of an obligatorily disqualifiable offence, or to refrain from endorsing a driving licence with penalty points in respect of an endorsable offence. If the defence submit that special reasons exist then the court would hear evidence to establish if that is the case. if they do find that special reasons exist, they are not obliged either to not disqualify, or to not endorse with penalty points. The finding of special reasons by the court gives rise to a discretion within the court, which should only be exercised in a clear and compelling case. For example, while driving with excess alcohol, or driving whilst unfit, the court might decide not to disqualify if it found that special reasons existed. Or for an otherwise endorsable offence, such as speeding, it might decide not to endorse with penalty points, if it found that special reasons existed. 

So what is the the definition of a ‘Special Reason’ ?

Well it is generally considered that there are four elements which must be present before a circumstance can be found to be a special reason. 

  1. It must be a mitigating or extenuating circumstance;
  2. It must not amount, in law, to a defence to the charge;
  3. It must be directly connected with the commission of the offence; and
  4. It must be a factor the court ought properly to take into account when sentencing.

For example, with a drink-drive allegation, sometimes special reasons can be found to exist, where the distance driven was very short. Especially if there was a strong justification for moving the vehicle. For example it concerns somebody’s safety. Each case turns on its own facts, and is a matter of the court’s judgement.

Commercial and regulatory investigations and prosecutions

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Businesses, regulations, and the law.

Businesses today, whether they be large or small, have never been subject to so much regulation. And that is so, whether it be Health and Safety regulations, or regulations controlling some other aspect of whatever that is the business is engaged in. You don’t need to tell me that it is difficult enough running a business in these strained economic times, as well as having to look over your shoulder and make sure that you are regulation compliant. And it is becoming increasing time consuming.

The consequences of a regulatory investigation

And any investigation brought by any of the bodies, responsible for policing those regulations may carry with it serious consequences.  Incidents that might give rise to such investigation commonly involve accidents at the workplace, but they can just as easily involve other areas covered by government regulations; such as food hygiene or transport. In fact, when you think about it, there isn’t an area of our lives that isn’t now covered by many, many regulations – some might say too many.

Prosecution as a result of a regulatory investigation

If an investigation leads to a prosecution, the fines are likely to be in the region of 5 or even 6 figures, excluding the prosecution’s costs. The collateral effects would include reputational damage, damaged relationship with clients, shareholder disapproval ( if the company is big enough to have shareholders), adverse affect upon credit lines, and obviously an impact upon personnel. There may also be consequential civil claims, for example, by the state of the deceased, or injured employee seeking damages, who might seek reply upon the fact of a conviction of the criminal court, in order to reinforce their civil claim.

The first thought many may have when the HSC (Health and Safety Commission) or some other bodies responsible for enforcing government regulations knocks on the door, is to reach the telephone and phone a solicitor. And at the end of that case, their bill (no doubt) together with the bill of the barrister, they will most likely instruct,  will fall through your letter box.

Advice and negotiations at an early stage of such an investigation is critical. It can often be critical to the investigation’s outcome. If the matter turns into a prosecution, of course, it will be brought as a criminal case. And that involves specialist knowledge of the regulations, the criminal law generally, and the law of evidence. But most importantly, considerable adversarial skills will be required, either before a Magistrate’s Court, or before a Crown Court and jury if it’s more serious. And now barristers, of course, are the specialist advocates. And I’ve been practised in these criminal courts as a specialist advocate for well over 30 years. I have the resources of a team behind me, a team of investigators who can assist in the preparation of a case, and who can assist me in putting forward, and putting together submissions to an investigating body which may well be pivotal in dictating what the outcome of that investigation will be.

The advantage of instructing a barrister to advise during regulatory investigations

The singular advantage of coming to me in the beginning is that I can advise and negotiate on your behalf during the investigation, and if necessary, ultimately represent you if the matter goes to court. It also means that I have full control over the course of the investigation and the way in which the case is put together. I can also advise you upon the choice of any experts that are required in the case, because over my many years of experience, I have come across many experts and obviously know who are the good ones, and who perhaps aren’t.

Based on my many years of experience, I know who the leaders in their fields are, and so the net result of the instructing me is that the process of delivery of advice, the advice you urgently need, you get it immediately. And if any representation is required thereafter, you have have the advantage of having the person at the helm from the beginning.

STEPHEN HARVEY Q.C.