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150-year-old offence could land you two years in prison

Furious and Wanton Driving comes from 19th Century legislation but remains available to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to this day.

Outlined in Section 35 of The Offences Against The Person Act 1861, it states:

“Whosoever, having the charge of any carriage or vehicle, shall by wanton or furious driving or racing, or other wilful misconduct, or by wilful neglect, do or cause to be done any bodily harm to any person whatsoever, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour, and being convicted thereof shall be liable, at the discretion of the court, to be imprisoned for any term not exceeding two years.”

The ancient law was established to deter people from driving horse-drawn carriages in a reckless manner, but also extends to non-motorised vehicles such as bicycles.

A statutory offence in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, it also covers motor vehicles being driven on private roads that therefore do not come under the Road Traffic Act.

But recent data, obtained by UK leasing experts Select Car Leasing, has found that no-one has been charged with the offence over the past two years.

That followed 2017 and 2018 which each had four cases of the DD90 offence.

The data, part of a Freedom of Information request to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), was correct up to July 11, 2020.

James O’Malley from Select Car Leasing said: 

“Driving laws in the UK do a decent job of keeping our roads safe for all users. They are in place to prevent a whole host of selfish acts, such as speeding and driving under the influence of drink or drugs. But sometimes there are these more unusual pieces of legislation that have hung around for well over a century and now appear to have much less use in modern times."

Archives show that the offence was far more common in the 19th Century. 

In 1889, greengrocer James Greenwood was brought before magistrates after “furiously driving a horse and spring cart” along Chapel Street in Oakworth, West Yorkshire.

He struck a child who was crossing the road and dragged them for a short distance. Greenwood was found guilty and fined 10 shillings, plus costs. 

One of the most famous recent cases was Charlie Alliston, who crashed into Kim Briggs while riding his bike in East London in 2016.

The then 18-year-old was riding a fixed gear bike with no front brakes – illegal on UK roads – when he collided with mum-of-two Briggs, 44, at around 20mph. She later died of her injuries.

Alliston was cleared of manslaughter but found guilty of causing bodily harm by wanton and furious driving and jailed for 18 months.

FOI request to DVLA – Number of drivers with the offence code DD90 on their driver record

Year of Offence Total Male Female
2017 4 2 2
2018 4 3 1
2019 0 0 0
2020* 0 0 0

* Figures correct up to July 11, 2020

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Wednesday, 11/05/2022