'Drug dealer' wins payout ruling

Updated: 

PA

A "drug dealer" travelling with a stash of cannabis who was seriously injured in a road accident is entitled to compensation from the Government, the High Court has ruled.

Sean Delaney had to be cut from the wreckage of the Mercedes being driven by acquaintance Shane Pickett after the head-on collision near Nuneaton in November 2006.

Members of the emergency services found a bag containing 240 grams of cannabis under the front of Delaney's jacket and a smaller quantity in Pickett's sock.

Criminal proceedings were successfully brought against Pickett in relation to his dangerous driving and the possession of cannabis but the police never interviewed or charged Delaney, probably because of the severity of his injuries and traumatic amnesia, said Mr Justice Jay in London.

Delaney's bid to obtain compensation from Pickett's insurers failed because of an exclusion clause although the Court of Appeal said that the claim was not barred on grounds of public policy as criminality was only the occasion, and not the cause, of the accident.

Delaney then launched a damages action against the Secretary of State for Transport, on the basis that the exclusion under a clause of the Uninsured Drivers' Agreement 1999 was incompatible with relevant EU directives.

Ruling in favour of Delaney today on the issue of liability, the judge said that the law was clear and the minister was in serious breach of it.

He added: "Many readers may be wondering how it comes about that a drug dealer is entitled to compensation against Her Majesty's Government in circumstances where he was injured during the course of a criminal joint enterprise.

"The understandable reaction might be: there must be some rule of public policy, reflecting public revulsion, which bars such a claim. The short answer is that there is not.

"The Court of Appeal held in terms that the insurer's public policy defence failed on these facts, and that must be the end of that matter in terms of domestic law.

"The relevant European Directives clearly state that there are only limited exceptions to liability in these circumstances, and that too must be the end of the matter as a matter of Community law."

The amount of damages due to Delaney, who suffered life-threatening injuries and some "intellectual blunting", will be assessed at a later date.