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Careless driving, Dunoon, October 2016

Our client was prosecuted for careless driving. He had actually contacted us shortly after being stopped by the police and we therefore were well aware of the circumstances of the case weeks before he received a citation for court. This meant we could hit the ground running and it is always a good idea to contact a lawyer as soon as possible.

In this case, the police had actually charged our client with dangerous driving. Although the Crown will take the charge into account, it is ultimately the Procurator Fiscal who determines how a case will proceed. On the evidence, the Procurator Fiscal in this case decided (correctly in our view) that the driving did not meet the test for dangerous driving and our client was therefore prosecuted for careless driving.

Our client’s first instinct was relief and a wish to plead Guilty to put the matter behind him. On reading the complaint, however, it was clear that the charge was ‘high end’ careless driving as it included allegations of repeated driving at speeds in excess of 90mph, repeated “unsafe” overtakes and, most serious of all, an allegation of tailgating. Our client accepted some of the complaint but not all. He did not deny reaching speeds in excess of 90mph but only did so when executing overtake maneouvres. While he accepted overtaking numerous cars (and a cyclist) at excessive speed, he did not accept that the overtakes were otherwise unsafe. Most importantly of all, he denied tailgating.

The new Sheriff Appeal Court has made absolutely clear that “tailgating” will not be tolerated and will be dealt with severely. Our client’s position, however, was that he was simply overtaking. He accepted he was close to the vehicles prior to overtaking but that this was a natural consequence of overtaking. When examining the space recommended by the Highway Code for following other cars, it is clear that – unless a driver overtakes from 50-70 metres back – he will be closer to the vehicle in front than the recommended follow distance. The Crown accepted this and the Procurator Fiscal very fairly agreed to specifically state that our client was not tailgating.

In the end the client received 4 penalty points. Careless driving carries 3-9 points or a discretionary disqualification. The amendments to the charge meant the case therefore moved from the higher end of carelessness to the lower end.