A driver who was seriously injured in a road accident caused by a suicide on a six-lane dual carriageway has won the right to have his claim for criminal compensation reconsidered.
In January 2005, Gareth Jones was driving a gritter lorry along the carriageway of the A282 north of the Dartford River Crossing when the driver of an articulated lorry in front of him braked hard and swerved in an attempt to avoid hitting a man who had run in front of the vehicle in an obvious suicide bid. The man, a Mr Hughes, was killed instantly and the resulting collision with the other lorry destroyed the cab of Mr Jones’s vehicle. Mr Jones was thrown onto the road, suffering catastrophic injuries, and now requires full-time residential care.
When Mr Jones’s mother applied on his behalf for compensation under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme, the application was rejected on the grounds that there was no ‘crime of violence’ and that although there may have been a ‘reckless act’ on the part of the dead man, this was not sufficient to constitute the necessary crime.
When a subsequent review upheld the decision, an appeal was made to the First Tier Tribunal. Here, it was argued that Mr Hughes had committed two crimes: unlawfully interfering with a motor vehicle and inflicting grievous bodily harm on Mr Jones. The Tribunal rejected both arguments. As far as grievous bodily harm is concerned, the Tribunal was not satisfied that the facts of the case demonstrated that Mr Hughes intended to cause harm or was reckless as to whether harm might be caused when he ran in front of the lorry.
The Court of Appeal, however, rejected the view that Mr Hughes’s action in throwing himself in front of the lorry could not amount to a crime of violence. Not all crimes of violence involve the infliction or threat of force. The Court held that the Tribunal may have misunderstood what recklessness involves and, as such, made an error in law. On this basis, the decision of the Tribunal was quashed and the matter was referred back to a differently constituted Tribunal to reconsider the issue of recklessness. It will therefore be up to that Tribunal to assess the probability or not of Mr Hughes having the necessary foresight that some harm might result from his actions in the light of the evidence.
“This is a tragic and unusual case,” says Jason Claridge. “It shows that Mr Jones was well advised to challenge the rejection of his compensation claim in the courts.”