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Supreme Court of Denmark

Infringement of the Faroese traffic code 

Case no. 33/2019

Judgment delivered on 6 June 2019

The Prosecution Service

The provisions in the Faroese traffic code on drunk driving and reporting of traffic accidents were not in contravention of the prohibition of self-incrimination

T had been fined DKK 8,500 and banned from driving for three years for, on the night of 5 April 2015, having hit a pedestrian and left the scene of the accident without immediately stopping and helping the injured person and without reporting the accident to the police, and for subsequently, within a period of six hours after the accident, having consumed so much alcohol that his blood alcohol level was 1.39 the next morning.

Firstly, the case before the Supreme Court concerned the issue of whether the High Court had misapplied the provisions in the Faroese traffic code on the duty to help and report and on consumption of alcohol for a period of six hours after driving a car and causing an accident (the six-hour rule). Secondly, the Court was asked to consider whether the provisions and the sentence were consistent with the prohibition of self-incrimination in Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The case also concerned the sentence imposed, including whether the penalty and the driving ban should be reduced or repealed due to the extended length of proceedings.

The Supreme Court found no basis for setting aside the High Court’s assessment that T had violated the provisions of the Faroese traffic code. The fact that T had been punished for failing to report the accident could also not be considered to be contrary to the prohibition of self-incrimination. The Supreme Court noted in this connection that the duty to report an accident is justified by the responsibility involved in driving a motor vehicle that can cause significant damage. The provision only imposes a duty to report the accident to the police, and not a duty to provide details of the accident and the driver’s own part in it. The police must thus still investigate whether there are grounds for criminal prosecution of the driver, just as the driver has the right to plead not guilty of having committed a criminal offence in any criminal proceedings, after which it is for the prosecution to establish criminal liability in court. The special Faroese provision on drunk driving (the six-hour rule) could not be considered to be contrary to the prohibition of self-incrimination, neither taken in isolation nor in conjunction with the duty to report.

However, the Supreme Court held that the length of proceedings had been so far beyond reasonable that T should be compensated. The Supreme Court thus lowered the penalty to DKK 1,750 and ordered the Treasury to pay the costs of the cases before all three instances. The Supreme Court found no basis for reversing the unconditional three-year driving ban.

The High Court had reached a different conclusion.

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