High Court rules British laws on uninsured drivers are ‘in plain breach’ of European Union directives
A drug dealer who suffered serious injuries in a car crash is entitled to compensation from the government even though the public will feel “revulsion” at the situation, a High Court judge has ruled.
Mr Justice Jay said Britain’s current rules on uninsured drivers are in breach of European Union laws because they allow insurers to refuse pay-outs if the victims were involved “in furtherance of crime”.
Sean Delaney, from Bedworth, Warwickshire, was found with eight and a half ounces (240 grams) of cannabis in his jacket after a head-on collision near Nuneaton in November 2006.
He was a passenger in a Mercedes 500SL driven by his friend Shane Pickett, who also had a smaller quantity of the drug hidden in his sock, and who was later jailed for dangerous driving and possession of cannabis.
Mr Delaney, who never faced criminal prosecution, had to be cut from the wreckage and was in a coma for three weeks, suffering broken legs, arm and pelvis, a punctured lung and bleeding to his brain. He will require care and assistance for the foreseeable future, the court heard.
The court said Mr Delaney had a “substantial” claim for damages – thought to run into hundreds of thousands of pounds – and the social security system “will not meet his needs fully”.
Mr Justice Jay said in his ruling:
“Many readers may be wondering how it comes about that a drug dealer is entitled to compensation against Her Majesty’s Government in circumstances where he was injured during the course of a criminal joint enterprise…The understandable reaction might be: there must be some rule of public policy, reflecting public revulsion, which bars such a claim. The short answer is that there is not…The relevant European Directives clearly state that there are only certain limited exceptions to liability in these circumstances, and that too must be the end of the matter as a matter of Community law.”
The rules which were contested in the court case deal with how the government must provide a back-up indemnity scheme for accidents involving uninsured drivers. It is operated by the Motor Insurers’ Bureau, on behalf of the Department for Transport (DfT).
Lawyers for the DfT argued that Mr Delaney and Pickett were involved in a “joint criminal enterprise”.
But after a detailed examination of EU law and the British regulations Mr Justice Jay, sitting in London, ruled the DfT was “in plain breach of EU law”.
He criticised the DfT for the way it devised the 1999 regulations, known as the Uninsured Drivers’ Agreement, commenting:
“Any department of state acting responsibly should have taken legal advice on an issue of this obvious sensitivity and potential controversy.”
A DfT spokesman said:
“We are disappointed with the judgment of the court despite the fact its effects will be very limited…We are looking closely at the judgment and are minded to appeal. Even if the judgment were to stand, claims will be excluded from compensation where serious criminality and a close connection between the crime and the accident can be shown.”