HEARING-DATES: 2, 3, 17 October 1963
HEADNOTE: A motor car belonging to W. and driven by L. ran into a wall. The police were anxious to examine the car in order to obtain evidence of its collision with the wall in connexion with a prospective charge of dangerous driving. In the evening, when the car was parked in a market place and L. had got into the driving seat, B., one of two constables on duty there, told L. that the police sergeant wanted to examine the car and that it was to remain where it was. L. asked who was going to stop him if he wanted to go, and B. replied that he was. Meanwhile W. arrived, told the constables they could not impound his car, and advised L. to drive it away. Neither L. nor W. had been charged or arrested. L. started the engine. The second constable went to the front of the car and raised his hand as a signal to L. to stop, whilst B. went to the rear of the vehicle. L. reversed and came into slight contact with B., who immediately went round to the driver’s seat to get the ignition key. He was unsuccessful. W. told L. to drive at the constable in front, who umped aside as L. drove forward. On appeals against convictions, under s. 38 * of the Offences against the Person Act, 1861, of assaulting the constable at whom the car had been driven when the constable was in due execution of his duty, and of procuring the assault,
* Section 38, so far as material, reads “Whosoever shall… assault, resist, or wilfully obstruct any peace officer in the due execution of his duty… shall be guilty of [an offence]…”
Held: the convictions must be quashed because in attempting to detain the car, B. and the second constable were not acting in the due execution of their duty at common law (see p. 662, letter D, post); moreover s. 223 of the Road Traffic Act, 1960, did not confer statutory power to detain a motor vehtcle in such circumstances as the present, where a constable would not have had power, under the common law, to do so (see p. 662, letter G, post).
HEARING-DATES: 3 May 1966
HEADNOTE: The appellant was seen by police officers in the early hours of the morning behaving suspiciously in an area where on the same night breaking offences had taken place. On being questioned he refused to say where he was going or where he had come from. He refused to give his full name and address, though he did give a name and the name of a road, which were not untrue. He refused to accompany the police to a police box for identification purposes, saying, “If you want me, you will have to arrest me”. He was arrested and charged with wilfully obstructing the police contrary to s. 51 (3) * of the Act of 1964. On appeal it was conceded that “wilfully” imported something done without lawful excuse.
* Section 51 (3), so far as material, provides: “Any person who… wilfully obstructs a constable in the execution of his duty… shall be guilty of an offence…”
Held: although every citizen had a moral or social duty to assist the police, there was no relevant legal duty to that effect in the circumstances of the present case, and the appellant had been entitled to decline to answer the questions put to him and (prior to his arrest) to accompany the police officer on request to the police box to establish identity; accordingly, in the circumstances, “wilful obstruction” by the appellant was not established, although he had been obstructive, because no obstruction without lawful excuse had been established (see p. 652, letters D and I, post).
The above case was an appeal against a conviction of Obstructing a Constable by refusing to give the constable his full name and address and for refusing to accompany the constable anywhere. The Appeal was allowed since the Peace Officers did not establish that any crime had been committed.