What the Ramsey Barreto mobile
phone ruling really means
By Andrew Perry, Solicitor, Road Safety Support
A story hit the headlines this week about a driver named Ramsey Barreto, who used a mobile phone as a video camera while driving. The Crown Court had ruled that he should not be convicted because using a phone in this way did not involve any “interactive communication” with anyone or anything. On Wednesday, the High Court rejected a CPS appeal against that ruling.
In view of the misleading press coverage, suggesting motorists could not have their conviction quashed, I wanted to put the record straight.
Contrary to what is claimed in some articles, there is no automatic right to reverse any conviction, be it by guilty plea or after trial, when the High Court gives its interpretation of the law. The law was taken to be as people assumed it was or were advised that it was, at the point of conviction.
Those who paid a fixed penalty to avoid court have no recourse. Those who pleaded guilty waived their opportunity to contest the case based on exactly what use they were making of the phone. They would now have to demonstrate having suffered “serious injustice” for the courts to even consider any application for re-opening. That is a virtually impossible hurdle, given the comments by the High Court that their actions were nevertheless criminal, but under a different category of offence (careless or dangerous driving) which potentially carry a higher penalty.
The only possible relevance of the ruling to past cases, would be for convictions at trial in the last 21 days, and then only if they disputed what function they were using. The number of such cases, far from being the hundreds or even thousands reported, can probably be counted on the fingers of one hand.
Andrew Perry (pictured) is a former senior policy advisor at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) specialising in road traffic law and is one the UK’s most experienced road traffic solicitors. As a Crown Advocate he prosecuted many high-profile cases which helped to shape current practice.