Coventry & Warwickshire

'Drug dealer' entitled to government payout, judge rules

A man who was seriously injured in a car crash while travelling with a stash of cannabis is entitled to government compensation, a judge has ruled.

Sean Delaney was injured in a head-on crash near Nuneaton in November 2006.

The driver of the car was jailed for dangerous driving but Mr Delaney's bid to obtain compensation from him failed because of an exclusion clause.

The High Court ruled the clause breached European law and "drug dealer" Mr Delaney can seek damages.

'Public revulsion'

The court heard how Mr Delaney had to be cut from the wreckage of a Mercedes being driven by Shane Pickett.

A bag containing 240g of cannabis was found under the front of Mr Delaney's jacket and a smaller quantity in Pickett's sock.

Judge Mr Justice Jay said Mr Delaney and Pickett had embarked on a "criminal joint enterprise" but said the police had never charged Mr Delaney, probably because of the severity of his injuries and traumatic amnesia.

Pickett, from Nuneaton, was jailed for 10 months after admitting dangerous driving and possession of cannabis.

When Mr Delaney's bid to claim compensation from Pickett's insurers failed, he launched a damages action against Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin, claiming the exclusion under a clause of the Uninsured Drivers' Agreement 1999 was incompatible with relevant EU directives.

At the hearing in London, the judge said the law was clear and the government was in serious breach of it.

He said: "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 there is not."

A Department for Transport spokesman said claims were excluded from compensation where seriously criminality and a close connection between the crime and the accident could be shown.

He said: "We are disappointed with the judgment of the court.

"We are looking closely at the judgment and are minded to appeal."

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