Horsebox seatbelt case thrown out

  • A showing producer who was prosecuted for carrying passengers in the living area of her lorry has won an “emphatic” victory, after magistrates threw out the case.

    Jayne Shields of Abergavenny, South Wales, was driving to the Ponies (UK) Summer Championships in Newark, Notts, on 7 August last year with two lead-rein ponies, when she was stopped by police on the M69.

    She was given a fixed penalty notice of three points and a £60 fine for driving with two teenage helpers in the living area, which was not fitted with seatbelts.

    The Road Traffic Act 1988 prohibits the carrying of passengers in the living area of vehicles where that involves “a danger”.

    “I thought it was ridiculous and I felt I had to fight the case for the wider equestrian community,” said Mrs Shields.

    After several trips to court, the case was eventually dismissed by Leicester Magistrates’ Court on 7 May, after they had heard the prosecution’s arguments. Mrs Shields was awarded costs.

    “This was as emphatic a win as anyone could achieve,” said her lawyer, transport solicitor Richard Pelly. “The case was all about the consequences for the equestrian world, had she been convicted.

    “We had evidence from eminent witnesses that, for decades, it has been the practice of horse owners to carry people in the living without seatbelts. This is widely accepted — and known to the police and VOSA [Vehicle and Operator Services Agency],” he added.

    Mrs Shields said she was relieved that “10 months of worry and uncertainty” had been brought to an end.

    But she feels the issue remains a “grey area”.

    Mr Pelly said that, despite the legal victory, horse owners should not assume that it is necessarily lawful to travel people in living areas without seatbelts. Each case will turn on its own facts.

    “If you are stopped by the police, take legal advice from a solicitor who deals with transport matters. You have 28 days to accept or challenge a fixed penalty,” he added.

    Richard Pelly can be contacted via www.pellystransport.co.uk

    This news story was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (6 June 2013)

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