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Kingston Hill drink driver gets off free as campus ruled ‘private property’

By River Reporter Feb 21, 2013

A KU student has said he made “the biggest mistake” of his life when he was convicted – which was later quashed – due to drink driving on campus.

Ben Stevens

A Kingston University student, who was found guilty of drink driving, has had his conviction quashed by a London Magistrates court due to the university campus that he was driving on being “private property”.

Joe Cowan, 21, from Bracknell, successfully appealed his drink driving conviction last month after a debate over whether drink driving laws under the 1988 Road Traffic Act apply to university campuses, ended in his favour.

Mr Cowan said: “After I was convicted it was recommended that I appealed the case by my lawyer, so I did. The process took another 18 months after my original conviction.

“In that time, I had served the length of my ban and had got my licence back. It was a long and stressful process. I never thought it would go my way, but there was no harm in trying,” he added.

“I do regret it a lot.”

Mr Cowan was first convicted of drink driving in August 2011 after driving his mother’s car into a ditch at Kingston Hill campus whilst under the influence of alcohol.

He said: “I do regret it a lot. My flatmate and I got into an argument back at halls, which got me angry so I left the situation. I just wanted to get away. It was the biggest mistake I have made in my life.”

Quashed conviction

Justice John Mitting quashed the drink driving conviction after ruling that as a university campus it was not a public place and therefore was not governed by drink driving laws.

Students, staff and visitors on campus are not to be treated as members of the public as they have the right to make the use of the university campus, its facilities and its grounds.

Not a public place

After failing to prove to the Magistrates Court that the campus was generally open to the public, therefore making it a public place subject to drink driving laws, the case was quashed as it was too late for it to be amended.

Justice Mitting stated that the evidence presented in court did not support the claim that Kingston Hill campus was a public place.

Eight or nine drinks

Following this incident in June 2011, Cowan was fined £150 and ordered to pay £200 legal costs, as well as being disqualified from driving for 12 months after his trial at Wimbledon Magistrates Court.

This ban was later reduced to nine months after he attended a driving awareness course.

After being tested it was revealed that Mr Cowan had 58 micrograms of alcohol in 100 milliltetres of breath. The legal limit is 35 micrograms.

Mr Cowan confessed to consuming eight or nine drinks before driving the vehicle, following an argument with his flatmate.  

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