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Health and Safety: Regulatory, Compliance and Investigations Insights March 2022

02 March 2022

This article is designed to update you on the latest developments and insight in the area of Regulatory, Compliance and Investigations. We hope you find this update useful. If you have any feedback, or to speak to a member of the team about any of the issues below, please contact Steffan Groch.

UK

 Sentencing Updates

Case Insight: The Acquittal of the 'Flip-Car' Farmer

Sarah Smith, a Senior Associate in DWF's RCI Team, was instructed to act on behalf of Mr Robert Hooper. Here, she shares an insight into the case and how acquitals were secured in a case that engrossed the nation.

Mr Hooper was charged with criminal damage and dangerous driving following an incident on 5 June 2021 where he used his telehandler to remove a car from his property which was blocking the only entrance and escape route from his farm. The footage was widely shared on social media and shows Mr Hooper driving a telehandler down the drive of his farm where he pauses to speak to the passenger of the Corsa. Following a short conversation, the telehandler moves forwards, the forks collide with the Corsa which shunts it in to a gatepost, causing it to lift and fall on its side. Mr Hooper then moves the Corsa to a grass verge on the public road and in his attempt to escape the assault he is suffering from the passenger of the Corsa, as he turns the telehandler, the forks collide with the male passenger, knocking him to the floor before he immediately gets up and continues to film Mr Hooper as he flees to his farm. At first blush you would be forgiven for thinking that Mr Hooper would be convicted of both counts found guilty of dangerous driving and criminal damage based solely on the media clip widely shared on social media following the incident on 5 June 2021. Whilst a picture paints a thousand words, this clip was only one piece of evidence placed before the Court for the jury to consider, so just how did we secure the acquittals in what appeared to be a nailed on case?

The role of a regulatory lawyer requires us to consider any evidence objectively, ensure that all aspects of the law are considered drawing on our vast experiences and giving clear and robust advice at the earliest possible opportunity. To those outside the industry, a trial is often believed to be the most crucial part of the case, and whilst it plays a vital role, the evidence given in interviews under caution is fundamental ; defences, where they exist, must be advanced at the earliest opportunity in order to lay the foundations for a trial and prevent adverse inferences being placed before the Court. That is precisely what happened in this case.

Mr Hooper was interviewed a short time after this incident and gave a full account of the days' events. At this stage, the only evidence which Mr Hooper was aware of was the media clip shown to him on a device in interview, and a summary of statements given to the police which supported their case of dangerous driving and criminal damage. As has been reported widely in the media, Mr Hooper gave evidence stated that he had suffered an assault prior to the footage recorded by the occupants (which was released on social media), and continued to be assaulted throughout the incident. Mr Hooper had a genuine belief that he was under attack and he sought to defend himself, his partner, his property and 'stop anything worse from happening'. This evidence, in addition to items from the unused material requested and disclosed by the Crown gave rise to a complex route to verdict which required the jury to be directed in relation to self-defence, accident, defence of property and the prevention of crime, with objective and subjective tests which applied at appropriate stages.

The moral of this story? Cases are not always what they first appear to be and you should #alwaysaimhigher

Case Highlight: A Stark Reminder to Cattle Farmers and Walkers

We review a recent case in which an 82-year-old male was trampled to death by cattle and look at the lessons that can be learned arising from this tragic event. Read more here >

Further Reading