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Is a garage forecourt a public place?

In the facts of a recent case (May v DPP 2005) a driver was convicted of careless driving when she collided with five cars on a Volvo franchise forecourt.

The garage had two car parks - one near the main showroom and the other near the workshop area. It was in the workshop car park where the accident occurred.

The unhappy driver appealed against the conviction on the basis that it wasn’t a ‘public place’, which is a requirement of the offence. After deliberation on other appeal cases where railway stations, retail outlets, hospitals, supermarkets were all held to be public place, i.e. you could drive on without restriction, it was held the forecourt was a public place so her conviction was upheld.

The case has some value for garage owners since, if damage is caused to cars by members of the public, a complaint can be made to the police and a conviction always helps when it comes to claiming uninsured losses, e.g. hire cars, insurance excess and others.

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