R v Savigny [2019] NZDC 20018

Published 27 July 2020

Endangering transport — interfering with transport facility — reckless driving — dismissal of charge — Crimes Act 1961, s 270 — Criminal Procedure Act 2011, s 147 — Interpretation Act 1999, s 5 — Karanga v R DC Auckland, 8 March 2018 — Waenga v R [2018] NZHC 865 — Woods v Police HC Palmerston North CRI 2006-454-11, 7 August 2006 — Police v Palmer HC Palmerston North, CIV 2004-454-01, 3 August 2004. The defendant faced, amongst several others, a charge of "endangering transport" under s 270 of the Crimes Act 1961 which carried a maximum sentence of 14 years' imprisonment. He sought to have this charge dismissed. The defendant had allegedly been driving in a dangerous manner on a state highway. The two main issues were ones of statutory interpretation. Section 270 states that a person who "interferes with any transport facility" would be liable. The defence queried whether driving on a road in the way that the defendant did amounted to "interference", and whether a road could be a "transport facility". A definition of "interfered with" was not provided by Parliament in the provision, so the Judge considered the usual or commonplace meaning. Presuming that a road is a transport facility, the Judge came to the conclusion that interfering with a road must be some act "adversely affecting a transport facility and at a level which, in light of the risks, amounts to misuse." This could include driving on the wrong side of the road for a prolonged period. It depended on the circumstances of each case, and here it needed to be determined in conjunction with the issue of whether a road constituted a transport facility. Several High Court decisions had similar fact scenarios but did not address the interpretation issue at length. Section 270(2) listed things which were indicative of transport facility as "any vehicle, ship, aircraft, and any property used in connection with the transportation of persons or goods". Without clear binding authority on the issue, the Judge concluded that it would be a stretch to consider that a road fell into the last category, and instead must mean, in line with the purposive approach to statutory interpretation, merely things similar in kind to a vehicle, ship, or aircraft. Having found that a road was not a transport facility, the issue of whether dangerous driving could be "endangerment" did not need to be considered, but the Judge noted that merely driving dangerously could not constitute endangerment without actually endangering the facility. The prosecution had not proven the elements of the offence to the required standard, and therefore the defendant succeeded in his application to dismiss the charge of endangering transport. Judgment Date: 7 October 2019.