Although there is no legal definition of what negligent driving and dangerous driving is, the Court must see the degree of recklessness one uses when the accident occurred to decide which one of the two apply. This was filed in Police v Noel Abdilla decided by the on 28 July 2020 by the Court of Criminal Appeal presided by Judge Consuelo Scerri Herrera. Abdilla was accused of driving in May 2018 in Hal Kirkop in a dangerous manner, neglectfully and of causing a traffic accident.
The Magistrates Court on 06/07/19 found the appellant guilty of three out of five charges and fined him €1,200 and ordered a suspension of his driving licence for three months. The appellant asked the Court of Criminal Appeal to reform the judgement by finding him not guilty of all charges. He argued that the Magistrates Court was erroneous when analysing the facts of the case, when the Court found him guilty of dangerous driving and when he changed the lanes when he was driving.
The appellant argued that there was conflicting testimony on how the accident took place. The appellant also denied reversing his van into another car. Another ground of appeal was that the first Court did not explain how it arrived at a guilty verdict, and this is an essential element to have a valid judgement. The appellant also argued that there is no evidence of the damages caused to the vehicles and there is no evidence that he refused to give his details to the police.
The Court of Criminal Appeal held that from the police report it resulted that Glenn Farrugia was in Gudja, when a van bumped into his car and continued to drive on. The van did not stop. Farrugia described how the appellant cut in front of him and hit his vehicle. Suddenly, the van reversed into his car. This was corroborated by a passenger in Farrugia’s car. This car had several damages to it.
Abdilla was summoned to the police station but denied hitting any car. In Court Glenn Farrugia testified that on the day of the accident he was close to the airport and driving to Hal Far. At the roundabout, a van stopped in front of him and reversed into him. This was confirmed by his girlfriend who was a passenger in the car.
The appellant Noel Abdilla testified under oath that he was driving his van on the day and at the roundabout another vehicle just appeared in front of him. He overtook this car and it was Glenn Farrugia who crashed into him and followed his van. When the appellant stopped Glenn Farrugia crashed into his rare side. He denied reversing into him. The Court was irked that Abdilla changed his version of events. These two versions are not supported by any of the witnesses, who clearly said that they saw Abdilla reversing onto Farrugia’s car. The Court found that the prosecution’s witnesses were more credible.
The Court, however, agreed with the appellant that there was no evidence on the damages that Farrugia’s car sustained and in any case, it was not his car.
The Court held that the charge that he failed to give his particulars was proved because he did not go to the police himself, but left the scene.
As to the charges of whether the accused was driving negligently or recklessly or dangerous, this is a question of degree of severity. For the most serious charge of dangerous driving, there has to a degree of recklessness. Recklessness was defined in Pulizija -v- Joseph Aquilina, decided on 20 April 1963, as “wilfully shutting one’s eye”. Negligent driving means a lack of prudence. In Il-Pulizija -v- Giuseppe Galdes, decided on 3 May 1953, the Court of Criminal Appeal held that for there to be dangerous driving, there must be more than a simple violence of the traffic regulations.
In this particular case, the Court felt that the appellants actions rendered his driving dangerous.
The Court then moved to confirmed the appellant’s disqualification of his driving licence for 3 months and the fine.
Avv Malcolm Mifsud
Mifsud & Mifsud Advocates
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