Dundee Sheriff Court Proceedings

 

This is a Report of the proceedings at Dundee Sheriff Court in Bell Street, Dundee on the morning and afternoon of 2 March 2005.

As the defendant, I took copious notes during the proceedings.  These notes are presented verbatim, with a minimum of editing.  Additional information is enclosed in brackets and some essential narrative has been added.

 

Accounts of other proceedings at this Court will be considered for publication.  You can me here.

 

The Trial was scheduled to begin at 9am.  My solicitor had not appeared when I presented myself at Court No. 5, on the top floor, at 10:18.  Sheriff Grant McCulloch asked if I had a solicitor and if I was adhering to my Not Guilty plea to the charge of Dangerous Driving.

I confirmed both and said I’d heard my solicitor was delayed on the road (it was snowy that morning).  Sheriff McCulloch said I would be called later when he arrived.

 

My solicitor, Thomas Cruickshank of George Mathers & Co., Aberdeen, arrived around 11 o’clock.  We used a cloakroom as an interview room.  People kept coming in for garments. [Although we had already discussed the case on three occasions, he wanted to know the direction I had been travelling in and asked me to go over my statement.  I said I had overtaken a heavily laden truck on Dundee’s Kingsway West dual carriageway when an approaching car in the outside lane was about 100 metres away.
He remarked that in his opinion this constituted Careless Driving. 

Mr Cruickshank then showed me a statement outlining what the prosecution witnesses would say in court.  He said he had taken it down during a phone call from the Procurator Fiscal depute (PFd) the previous evening.]

 

[In addition to this information, the defence had a statement by PC Kenneth Bell, aged 41, an officer with 22 years’ service, who was stationed at Forfar Police Office. It was not given in court because PC Bell was not required to attend.
My solicitor said I could not copy the statement but allowed me to take notes from it:

‘Went on duty at 18:00hrs – a short time later got a call from the Forfar Office to attend Peter Carnegie at Muirhead to take a statement – attended at 19:00hrs.

At Locus 2 a Citroen overtook on the nearside then swerved violently into Mr Carnegie’s path, causing him to brake and swerve and strike the kerb of the central reservation. Examined the blue Vauxhall Astra and found a “slight scuff mark on the front offside tyre”.

Mr Carnegie gave him the registration mark of a witness’s vehicle. 
He carried out a PNC check on both witnesses’s vehicles and subsequently noted statements from a Mr Moir and a Miss MacGregor – both confirmed they had seen the incident and also stated that at Locus 1 the Citroen had pulled out and caused them to brake and that later at Locus 3 it had overtaken them on their nearside.

He carried out a PNC check on the Citroen.

The Locus:

1)               An unclassified road to Liff, also known as Swallow Roundabout

2)               Near Myrekirk Road roundabout

3)               Near Strathmartine Road junction

 

“I did not visit the Locus”.]

 

At 12:05 we left my partner in the waiting room and went upstairs to Court No. 5 to see if they were ready for us.  They were ready but when I asked Mr Cruickshank if my partner could be informed, he brushed the request aside. As a result she missed the entire morning session.

 

There were 3 incidents mentioned on the Complaint sheet:

 

“on 15 June 2004 on a road or other public place, namely Kingsway West, Dundee, you [the Accused] did drive a mechanically propelled motor vehicle, namely motor car registered number SK52DJO dangerously in that, near to the junction with Liff Road you pulled out into the path of motorcycle registered number Y186VMW, forcing Russell William Moir to brake to avoid a collision, and near to the junction with Myrekirk Road, you overtook motor car, registered number SV53HVZ, on its nearside, then swerved violently into its path, forcing Peter Alexander Gordon Carnegie to brake and swerve to av [sic] avoid a collision, causing his vehicle to collide with the central reservation, and, near to the junction with Strathmartine Road, you overtook motorcycle, registration mark Y186VMW, on its nearside; contrary to the Road Traffic Act 1988, Section 2 as amended “

 

[Notes on the Complaint:

The Liff Road reference was incorrect – it was actually the Swallow Roundabout, about 1km to the SW, corresponding to Locus 1 in PC Bell’s statement.

The final allegation was dropped, although the defence was not informed of this until long after the trial.]

 

I took my place in the dock and, while waiting for proceedings to begin, took a swig from a water bottle (it was quite hot on the top floor of the Court).  Mr Cruickshank reprimanded me, saying I must not drink in the dock.

Those present were the Clerk of the Court, two uniformed police officers, a young female Procurator Fiscal depute (PFd) and a female reporter from the Dundee Evening Telegraph.

Sheriff Andrew McCulloch entered and everyone stood up.

Mr Cruickshank introduced himself as the Defence Agent and apologised profusely to the Sheriff for his late arrival.

 

When the Clerk of the Court asked, I confirmed my name and that I was the driver.

 

The first witness came to the witness stand and took the oath. 

Peter Carnegie, aged 50, a white-haired, robust-looking man from Dundee said he had the day off on the day in question.

The PFd questioned him and he said that he had joined Kingsway West at Myrekirk Road from the Dundee side. A Gas Board van had broken down about 250 yards east of the roundabout. The inside lane was empty but he stayed in the outside because of the van, doing 50mph [the speed limit]. There were 2 people on a motorbike behind him. The Accused’s car approached from behind in the inside lane, undertook and when it got to the broken down van, swerved into the outside lane. It was doing 60mph. He braked and swerved and touched the kerb [of the central reservation]. Later, he found a mark on the tyre, but “it was OK.” He wrote the registration down on a bit of paper. He read it out using the phonetic alphabet.

Sheriff McCulloch interjected, asking if he had written it down at the time. Mr Carnegie said he had written it down when he was about to turn off at the Strathmartine Road roundabout [about 1km further along Kingsway].

At this point, the PFd whispered to Mr Cruickshank: “Is it in dispute?  He lost the bit of paper but found it later.”

Mr Carnegie said he drove on after the collision. The Accused went ahead and he let it go, returning to the nearside lane. He said the motorbike dropped back, then it went past. He noted its registration also on the bit of paper.  Then he went to Balgowan Ave Police Station.  This is near a supermarket – he was going shopping.  They took his details and contacted him later.

The PFd then asked him to identify the accused.

He pointed at the Accused in the dock.

The PFd then asked where he hit the central reservation.

Mr Carnegie said it was near the underpass. [This was later identified as the Coupar Angus flyover] He said he was panicking that he was going to hit the crash barrier and run into the gravel. He said the broken down van was a large white, doubled-wheeled Gas Board vehicle [Gas Board vans are blue] and it was parked partly on the verge. He said he was level with the van at the time of the collision.

Sheriff McCulloch interjected again, asking if the Accused’s car would have collided with the van if it hadn’t pulled out [the answer was not recorded].

 

Mr Cruickshank began his cross-examination of the witness.  He passed maps to Sheriff McCulloch and to the witness.  He asked Mr Carnegie about his use of the phonetic alphabet. “I’m a radio amateur”, he said.  He said that Denhead of Gray was the approximate location of the incident but that it was wrongly marked on the map that was provided.

Mr Cruickshank asked if the van was stopped and the witness confirmed it.

He then suggested that the incident had taken place near a BP filling station [about 200m E of Denhead of Gray and corresponding to Locus 2 in PC Bell’s statement] but Mr Carnegie denied this, saying he knew the location referred to because there was usually a camera at that point, so he was within the speed limit. He added that he did not have any speeding tickets.

Mr Cruickshank asked when he noticed that there were 2 people on the motorbike. Mr Carnegie said he thought the people looked big.  He said the pillion was female and looked slight.  He hadn’t had any contact with the riders.  He did not know the bike from any other time.  He could not remember the colours of their leathers.

The PFd interjected at this point, asking if this line of questioning was necessary. Mr Cruickshank replied that it would become obvious that it was, indeed, necessary.

He asked Mr Carnegie if, after the incident, he had ever run side by side with the Accused’s car [the answer was not recorded].

Mr Cruickshank then asked if the Accused had tried to overtake him.

Mr Carnegie: “Yes.”

Sheriff McCulloch interjected: “How does it pass you again if it’s already in front of you?”

Mr Carnegie: “To be honest I was a wee bit shocked.”

Sheriff McCulloch: “Did he or didn’t he?”

Mr Carnegie: “I think he slowed down and overtook later.”  He added that the motorbike also passed him near the Coupar Angus flyover.

Mr Cruickshank: “I put it to you that the Accused balked you and you tailgated him.”

Mr Carnegie: “No.”

Mr Cruickshank then asked Mr Carnegie where he thought the Accused’s car had come from at the Myrekirk Road roundabout.  The witness said he did not know.

 

The PFd then asked Mr Carnegie if the incident was clear in his mind.

He said he had only had the car a few months – it was his pride and joy.  He said that parts of his memory were a bit vague – he was a bit shocked.  He said he left Kingsway West at the Strathmartine Road roundabout and the Accused’s car had gone straight on.  He also said he had acknowledged the motorcyclists as he went past. 

 

The witness was told to stand down and he took a seat in the public viewing area.

 

 

Russell Moir, aged 29, from Carnoustie, came to the stand. He had short-cropped hair and looked relaxed and confident.

The PFd questioned him:

He said he had travelled from Perth with his partner as pillion on a motorbike that was now sold.  At the Swallow Roundabout [corresponding to Locus 1 in PC Bell’s statement], the Accused was in the slow lane when his car pulled out immediately after indicating.  He braked. He said he was ready for something like this to happen. At the Myrekirk Road roundabout, the Citroen was in the slow lane, which was moving faster than traffic in the outside lane. Kingsway West was busy – it was rush hour.  He was in the outside lane, with the Accused’s car a little in front.  A white van was parked near the car credit building [believed to correspond to Locus 2 in PC Bell’s statement] with its hazard lights on.  The Citroen undertook a car in the outside lane – “I think it was an Astra – it braked and swerved suddenly to the right a little.”  He could not tell the registration of the Citroen.

The PFd then asked him to identify the accused: “I think it’s that gentleman there.”

Mr Moir went on: “The Citroen came out to avoid hitting the van. We passed the Astra near the underpass [assumed to be the Coupar Angus flyover] and I asked him if he was OK by using the thumbs up sign. He gave a sign back. He looked shaken.” 

“The Citroen passed us again on the inside near the Strathmartine Road roundabout [corresponding to Locus 3 in PC Bell’s statement].  I think he wanted to beat me.”

 

Sheriff McCulloch interjected:  “How far short of the roundabout?”

Mr Moir replied that it was near the turn-off to the old university playing fields – the one before Bank Avenue, at Charlotte St.

Sheriff McCulloch asked if there was much traffic.

Mr Moir replied that it was busy.

Sheriff McCulloch asked if anyone else passed.

Mr Moir replied: “Folk are always passing me on the inside.”

The PFd then asked Mr Moir: “What was his manner of driving?”

Mr Moir replied: “He wasn’t hanging about.”

Shortly afterwards, Mr Moir said: “I passed him.”

Sheriff McCulloch asked: “Later on?”

Mr Moir replied: “Just past Clive Road.” [on the far side of the Strathmartine Road roundabout]

Sheriff McCulloch then asked: “What do you ride?”

Mr Moir replied: “A Kawasaki 1100.”

Sheriff McCulloch raised his eyebrows and commented: “Quite a powerful machine.”

 

At 13:01 the Sheriff called a lunch break.  [On the resumption,  Mr Cruickshank told me he had reprimanded the witnesses for talking amongst themselves in the Witness Room – something that is expressly forbidden] 

The trial resumed at 14:10 with Mr Cruickshank’s cross-examination of Mr Moir.

 

He established that the witness worked in Perth at the same place as his partner. His motorbike was burgundy in colour. They both wore white helmets and leathers with blue stripes.

Mr Cruickshank asked Mr Moir: “Are you sure you were accompanied by your partner?”

Mr Moir replied: “Yes.”

Mr Cruickshank: “What was the cause of what happened first? [at the Swallow Roundabout, corresponding to Locus 1 in PC Bell’s statement]  Could you have been in his blind spot?”

Mr Moir replied: “Maybe. He moved out to overtake a slower-moving lorry, very close to the roundabout. There could have been an accident.”

Mr Moir continued: “At the next roundabout [Myrekirk Road roundabout], I saw him in a queue of traffic.  He was in front in the inside lane.”

Mr Cruickshank asked where the second incident had taken place.

Mr Moir said it was not near the BP station but just before the Mercedes garage [corresponding to Locus 2 in PC Bell’s statement].  Then he said it was near the BP station. Then he said, “I’m not willing to estimate the distance.”  Then he said it was opposite Dunholme Road [roughly corresponding to Locus 2 in PC Bell’s statement].  Then he said the parked van was 800 yards from the Myrekirk Road roundabout, partly blocking the slow lane [the BP filling station is 800 yards from the roundabout].  He added that the Astra swerved slightly but stayed on the carriageway.

Mr Cruickshank then asked: “Where was the Citroen when you made that gesture to the Astra?”

Mr Moir replied: “In front.”

Mr Cruickshank demonstrated a pointed forefinger with thumb raised gesture and asked if he had made such a gesture.

Mr Moir stated: “It couldn’t be me.” He added that: “the pillion passenger sits slightly lower than me.”

Mr Cruickshank continued: “How did you identify the driver of the Citroen?”

Mr Moir replied: “At the Strathmartine Road roundabout he looked over and we looked back.”

 

Mr Cruickshank then asked: “Do you know witness Carnegie?”

Mr Moir replied: “No.”

 

He then said that they got a call from the police a day or two later. They came round and took a statement.

Mr Cruickshank asked: “Traffic was normal – not jampacked and not empty?  Do you remember any other vehicles on the road?” [the answer was not recorded]

Mr Moir went on to say that near the Strathmartine Road roundabout he was doing about 50mph.

Sheriff McCulloch interjected: “Presumably he was doing over 50?” and, “What speed were you doing when you were behind the Astra?”

Mr Moir replied: “Up to 50mph.”

Sheriff McCulloch: “What speed was the Citroen doing when underpassing the Astra?” [the answer was not recorded]

 

Mr Moir then said that the underpass he referred to before lunch is at McAlpine Road, near Camperdown Park. It was here that he gave the Astra driver the thumbs up sign [Camperdown Park is near the Coupar Angus flyover].

 

The PFd concluded the interview by asking: “What did you feel at the first incident?”

Mr Moir replied: “That he’d not seen me.”

The PFd stated: “He pulled out blindly.”

 

The witness was dismissed.

 

 

Catherine MacGregor, aged 30, from Carnoustie, came to the stand. She was a tallish, slender, hook-nosed woman who smiled a lot.  She seemed nervous.

[MacGregor had given a Precognition Statement – the only witness to do so – in early February.

Once again, I took notes from her Statement:

About 5:30 on 15th June she was a pillion passenger on a Kawasaki ZZR 1100 motorcycle, registration number Y186 VMW, driven by Russell Moir. They were heading north on the A90.  Near the junction with Liff Road she saw a pale blue Citroen Picasso in the nearside lane.  Suddenly it pulled out without indicating into the offside lane, causing Russell to brake to avoid a collision.  At the next roundabout the Citroen overtook a dark blue car on the nearside causing the driver to brake suddenly.  At the next roundabout the Citroen was on the inside and we were in the outside lane.  “Russell passed the accused’s car at this point.  I did not see it again.  His driving was very erratic.  The Police contacted us later.  I can identify the accused”.]

 

The PFd began questioning Miss MacGregor.

She said she worked at Rossleigh Jaguar in Perth and travelled there every day from Carnoustie.  She had a car, but on that day she went pillion because it was a nice day.

She said that the first incident took place [at the Swallow Roundabout] between 5:30 and 5:45, when the Citroen indicated and pulled out abruptly.  She could not say if the driver looked before pulling out.  Traffic was starting to get busy – “there was a queue in front of us.”

 

At the second incident she could remember seeing the Accused’s car in the inside lane.  A white van, with its hazard lights on, was taking up the full inside lane.  An Astra ahead had to brake suddenly.  She could not say if the Citroen driver indicated before moving out to avoid the van.

The PFd asked what speed the Citroen was doing.

Miss MacGregor replied: “I can’t honestly say. At least the speed limit.”

She said that if the Astra had not braked, it would have been close to a collision.  “I got quite a fright.”

 

The PFd then asked her to identify the accused.  She had a lot of trouble pointing at the Accused in the dock and had to be asked twice more by an increasingly irritated Procurator Fiscal Depute to be more accurate.  She eventually said the Accused reminded her of someone at work.

 

The questioning continued and Miss MacGregor said: “We passed it [the Citroen] again, and also the Astra, just after the Odeon.” [This is believed to be the Cineworld complex at Camperdown Park, near the Coupar Angus junction]  She said Mr Moir gestured towards the man who got cut up.

She then said: “The Citroen came up on the inside near the Strathmartine Road roundabout [corresponding to Locus 3 in PC Bell’s statement] and overtook us because we were in traffic.”

She went on: “After, he undertook us again.” [On the far side of the Strathmartine Road roundabout]

 

Mr Cruickshank began his cross-examination of the witness by asking: “Are you sure you were on the pillion?” and asked how she had observed the incidents.

Miss MacGregor said: “Yes” and went on to say they were wearing similar colours of clothes and that she was slightly higher on the pillion than the driver and could easily look round him.

 

Mr Cruickshank then asked if the Citroen driver might not have seen them during the first incident because of his blind spot.

Miss MacGregor replied that she would not have thought so.

When asked about the location of the second incident, she said it occurred 200 yards before the BP station [roughly corresponding to Locus 2 in PC Bell’s statement].   She said the white van was definitely stationary.

Mr Cruickshank asked: “Why were you in the outside lane at Myrekirk Road?”

Miss MacGregor responded: “Why not?”

Mr Cruickshank asked: “When did you see the driver?”

Miss MacGregor said: “Just after the Odeon at Baird Avenue [Baird Avenue is an industrial area E of the Coupar Angus junction].  We drove past him slower than 50mph.”  She said they also overtook the Astra at this point.

 

When asked about the gesture, she said Mr Moir got “a thumbs up from the other chap.”

When asked about the collision, she said the Astra might have hit the kerb but she could not be sure.

Mr Cruickshank asked the witness a question about the Astra hitting the gravel of the central reservation.

Sheriff McCulloch interjected, telling Mr Cruickshank that he was wrong – the Astra had not touched the gravel. Mr Cruickshank apologised profusely.

Mr Cruickshank then asked the witness if she thought an accident had occurred.

Miss MacGregor replied: “Yes” and that she was not surprised to find the police involved.

 

The Defence Agents’s cross-examination having ended, the PFd recapped Miss MacGregor’s account.

 

Stephen Bateson, aged 55, [the Acused] then took the stand and was questioned by his solicitor. He was a tall, bespectacled man, wearing a suit that seemed a little too tight.

 

He related that he was driving east in the inside lane of Kingsway West at just under 50 mph, having just left the Myrekirk Road roundabout.  The road was surprisingly quiet for the time of day, about 5:30.  About 400m from the roundabout, there was a much slower vehicle – a heavily-laden small truck – ahead so he looked in his mirror, noted a car some distance away in the outside lane and signalled to overtake.  As he began the overtaking manoeuvre, he saw that the car was closer but judged it safe to continue overtaking because he had given ample warning of his intentions by signalling.  The car came up very close behind, flashing its lights. It may also have sounded its horn.  Having completed overtaking, he moved back to the inside lane, still just within the speed limit.  The other driver then overtook, pulled sharply into the inside lane in front of the Citroen and slowed down abruptly.  Realising the driver was angry, the Accused slowed down as well, not wishing to provoke any further incident.  A motorcyclist in the outside lane then came alongside and, when he was ahead of the Citroen and level with the other car, turned round in the saddle, lifted his gloved left hand from the handlebars, and pointed at the other car.  The Accused was not sure what the gesture meant and ignored it.   The motorcyclist then sped off and was not seen again.  The Accused moved out to overtake the other car, whereupon it speeded up.  He resisted the temptation to exceed the limit and overtake the car and the two vehicles proceeded side by side for a time.  There was no further attempt at intimidation, however.  The Accused said that he eventually became aware that the car was no longer present in the inside lane and assumed it had left by a slip road.  He continued his journey to Aberdeen without further incident.

 

Mr Cruickshank ended his questioning by asking: “Did you make any stops on your journey?”

The Accused replied: “No.”

 

The PFd began questioning the Accused [this section is limited because the accused was unable to take notes while being questioned].

She asked: “Are you saying the witnesses are lying?”

The Accused replied: “None of the incidents they have related took place.”

 

Sheriff McCulloch interjected, commenting that the incidents described by the prosecution and the defence were so disparate that they might have taken place on different days.

The Accused said he agreed with that.

 

The Sheriff went on, saying he thought the distance travelled was 250 miles.

The Accused corrected him, saying it was 275 miles. 

Sheriff McCulloch asked if he had stopped for a rest or to refuel.

The Accused said: “No”, adding that it was a diesel car.

Sheriff McCulloch then remarked that it was a long way to drive without a stop and that the accused might have been tired and so the obstructions on the road might not have registered. He asked if the accused might not have seen the motorbike. [at the Swallow Roundabout]

The Accused replied: “None of these incidents happened, believe me.”

 

The PFd then asked the Sheriff to find all 3 witnesses credible and reliable.  She invited him to convict as levelled.

The Sheriff asked what the definition of Dangerous Driving was.

The PFd stuttered and hesitated.

Mr Cruickshank produced a book and appeared to show her the definition.

He stated that Mr Moir chose to brake and did not brake violently. It was therefore not a Section 2a charge but Section 3.

She apologised to the Sheriff, who said that it was not Dangerous Driving but was a Section 3 [Careless Driving] incident.

The PFd offered to amend the charge.

 

Sheriff McCulloch then formally convicted the accused.

He asked after the Accused’s financial circumstances.

 

Mr Cruickshank went over to his client and asked him about his finances.  He seemed surprised when the Accused said he was on benefits.  He declared that he would not be paying any fine.  As the solicitor was moving away, he grabbed at his gown and instructed him not to make any plea in mitigation.

 

Mr Cruickshank then approached the bench and told the Sheriff his client was on benefits and that he needed his car “to visit an ageing relative.”

 

Sheriff McCulloch then imposed 7 points and a £300 fine to be paid at £10 per week.

 

The Accused handed his driving licence to the Clerk of the Court for amendment.

 

The Trial ended around 4pm with Mr Cruickshank repeating his apology for his late arrival in Court.