Q: Is alcohol a “drug”, and are traffic offences properly described as “criminal offences”? A: Yes and Yes.

These were the two questions considered by Chief Justice Kawaley of the Supreme Court of Bermuda in his recent judgment, dated 30 August 2016, in Somner and Tucker v F Miller [2016] SC Bda 81 App, in two conjoined appeals from the Magistrates’ Court.

The Magistrates’ Court, in two separate cases, had declined to consider referring two serious traffic offenders to the Drug Treatment Court for drug treatment rehabilitation as part of their sentencing, on the basis that section 68 of Bermuda’s Criminal Code 1907 did not apply to traffic offences (as opposed to other criminal offences).

The two offenders had been found guilty, by their own admission, not only of drink driving, but of drink driving while they were already disqualified due to previous drunk driving offences!

The two offenders each attributed their serial traffic offending to their alcoholism, and associated alcohol abuse, which, it was submitted, was analogous to illegal drug addiction and abuse.

On appeal, Chief Justice Kawaley concluded that section 68 of Bermuda’s Criminal Code did apply to traffic offences just as it did to other criminal offences. He also concluded that section 68 of the Criminal Code covers alcohol addiction as well as other forms of illegal drug addiction.

So, in summary, and at least for the purposes of sentencing in the Magistrates’ Court:

  1. Alcohol is a ‘drug’; and
  2. Traffic offences are ‘criminal’ offences.

For a copy of the judgment, see: https://www.gov.bm/sites/default/files/Appeal-Judgment-Somner-and-Tucker-v-R.pdf

The judgment has also been covered by a story in the Royal Gazette: http://www.royalgazette.com/court/article/20160901/duis-may-go-to-drug-court

 

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