On appeal from: [2014] EWCA Crim 829

The Supreme Court unanimously upheld the appeal holding that the driving must have been at fault for a person to be convicted of aggravated vehicle taking under s12A of the Theft Act 1968.

The appellant and another man took a car without consent. Whilst driving the appellant collided with a scooter, killing the driver. The appellant was found to be driving without insurance and over the drink drive limit. He was charged, along with the other man, with aggravated vehicle taking contrary to the Theft Act 1968, ss 12A(1) and 2(b), and with causing the death of the scooter driver whilst uninsured contrary to the Road Traffic Act 1988, s3ZB. The Crown accepted that there was no fault in the manner of the appellant’s driving and a not guilty verdict was therefore directed on the Road Traffic count. The court therefore had to decide whether fault also had to be proved in relation to the accident on the aggravated vehicle taking count.

In giving the lead judgment, Lord Sumption stated that s 12A of the Theft Act imposes strict liability only to the extent that anyone who was party to the taking of the vehicle (and in the immediate vicinity at the time of the injury) commits the offence, whether or not he was driving at the time. He reasoned that the appellant’s driving explained how the vehicle came to be in the place where the accident occurred, but cannot be said to have caused it.

Sumption concluded that the test is as set out in R v Hughes: there must be “at least some act or omission in the control of the car which involves some element of fault, whether amounting to careless/inconsiderate driving or not, and which contributes in some more than minimal way to the death”.


For judgment, please download: [2016] UKSC 5
For Court’s press summary, please download: Court’s Press Summary
For a non-PDF version of the judgment, please visit: BAILII

To watching the hearing please visit: Supreme Court website