#1Sep 2nd, 2006
The Times September 02, 2006
Men charged with drunken driving . . . a horse and cart
By Alan Hamilton
William Royles has denied being drunk in charge of a horse (Photo: Adrian Sherratt / PA)
THE law may be an ***, but it can still have you up before the beak for being drunk in charge of a horse. And in a bizarre coincidence, two men totally unconnected to each other, landed up in court yesterday charged with that offence.
William Royles, a 21-year-old traveller, was driving a carriage drawn by Dipstick, his two-year-old bay, in the dark through Gloucester when he was stopped by a police officer and a special constable for having no lights. They also charged him with being drunk.
The other man before magistrates, Adrian Whitaker, 36, tried to make his way home by horse and cart after a hard day’s drinking.
Police were alerted by motorists after he held up traffic on a country lane near Northaw, Hertfordshire. Mr Whitaker fell off the cart and landed at a policeman’s feet when he was pulled over.
He admitted being drunk in charge of a horse and cart before Central Hertfordshire magistrates and was due to be sentenced yesterday.
When Mr Royles appeared before Gloucester magistrates he was told that his trial would be postponed until next month, because the part-time special constable, who has a day job as a lecturer, had failed to turn up as a witness, pleading work commitments.
The chairman of the magistrates’ bench said that it was totally unacceptable for the special constable not to be present, but the case would still have to be put back in the interests of justice. Matthew Harbinson, representing Mr Royles, argued that it would be impossible for his client to have a fair trial without the chance to crossexamine the witness.
Mr Royles admitted the lighting offence but denied the drink-driving charge.
Mr Harbinson told the court that he had not come across such a case before, but he had looked up previous similar hearings. “According to case law, the standard of drunkenness in these circumstances is higher than that applied to motoring matters. The person must be drunk to the extent of loss of self-control.”
The 1872 Licensing Act, which featured in a recent Law Society exhibition of antiquated legislation still on the statute book, states: “Every person who is drunk while in charge on any highway or other public place, of any carriage, horse, cattle or steam engine, or who is drunk when in possession of any loaded firearms, may be apprehended and shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding level one on the standard scale, or in the discretion of the court to imprison for any term not exceeding one year.”
Mr Royles was ordered to return for a pre-trial review on September 26 and for his trial on October 27. He is not subject to bail, or any interim ban on using Dipstick.
Outside the court Mr Royles said that he had been tempted to turn up on Dipstick for the hearing, but had decided to leave him at home.
As the law relating to being drunk in charge of a horse, a cow or a steam engine on the public highway dates from 1872, it makes no mention of the breathalyser, and the charge of drunkenness rests only on the allegation of the arresting officers rather than the proof of a breath test.