Friday, April 10, 2009

Justice Secretary's anti-booze crusade fails again as drunk Prosecutor cleared of drink driving

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill’s anti-booze culture drive in Scotland cant even seem to clean up his own colleagues in the legal profession, never mind the rest of the country .. as is widely reported in the media today a Procurator Fiscal who was arrested while drunk behind the wheel of her car was acquitted of drink driving charges.

No expectations the Crown Office will tout that one as much of a success (and neither will anti-booze crusader *hic* Kenny – Ed)

The Scotsman reports :

Prosecutor found drunk at wheel of car is cleared by sheriff

Published Date: 10 April 2009

A PROCURATOR fiscal who was apprehended drunk behind the wheel after drinking vodka in her car was acquitted of drink-driving yesterday.

Anne Hart, 38, was found by police slumped at the wheel of her BMW on 12 January. Her car was blocking traffic as she sat and drank a quarter bottle of vodka after her husband threw her out of the marital home.

Yesterday, during a trial at Arbroath Sheriff Court, she admitted being in an intoxicated state and in charge of a vehicle.

However, Sheriff Jamie Gilmour acquitted her of drink-driving after her solicitor, Jim Williamson, argued she had not intended to drive and had placed the car keys on the passenger-side floor as a precaution.

The mother of two told the court her private life was in turmoil at the time of the incident, which occurred in Ferry Road, Monifieth.

She said her mother had died the year before, she was going through a cancer scare at the time and was struggling with a failed marriage.

Mrs Hart, who is a senior prosecutor in Dundee, said her husband had thrown her out of the marital home earlier in the day.

She said: "The relationship had broken down irretrievably. I visited my auntie and afterwards, I purchased a quarter bottle of vodka and a bottle of Coke, with the intention of going to my father's house, because I had nowhere else to go.

"One of the reasons my marriage broke down was because of a relationship with another man, but I couldn't contact him. I stopped the car because I was crying so much, and I sat there in the car and drank the quarter bottle of vodka in a very short amount of time.

"I phoned my brother to come and pick me up because I was highly intoxicated. I vaguely remember the police coming, and I said to the police, 'The keys are not in the ignition, they are on the floor. It's OK, I'm a fiscal'. I had no intention of driving. I am a procurator fiscal and I know the law."

Catriona Bryden, prosecuting, asked Mrs Hart: "Why does a fiscal sit in a car and drink a quarter bottle of vodka?"

She replied: "I wanted to numb some of the pain."

Mrs Hart's brother, Timothy Johnston, 31, gave evidence that his older sister had phoned him to go and pick her up. He said: "I could tell by her voice that she'd had a drink. She told me that she was sitting in her car and asked me to come and get her.

"The next call I got from her, she was hysterical, crying and not making much sense.

"By the time I got there, there was nobody in the car."

Sheriff Gilmour said: "I had to consider whether there was a likelihood that the accused was going to drive while still under the influence of alcohol. The defence case does cast a reasonable doubt on each of the circumstances."

Last night, senior Scottish politicians condemned Mrs Hart's conduct.

Robert Brown, the Liberal Democrats' justice spokesman, said: "This is very disappointing behaviour. It does not send out the right message about mixing cars and alcohol."

Richard Baker, Labour's justice spokesman, said: "It is an issue of concern if a procurator fiscal is in a car and drunk.

"She is responsible for scrutinising other people's lives and needs to demonstrate respect for that – that is why there is such scrutiny of this case. However, the sheriff has made his decision, and that has to be respected."

Bill Aitken, for the Scottish Tories, said: "This is an interesting legal point which will no doubt be determined by the High Court in due course."

Margaret Dekker, of the Scottish Campaign Against Irresponsible Driving, said: "This is an astonishing decision. Does this mean that everyone up on drink-driving charges will use this excuse now? It sends out the wrong message completely."

In 2006, Mrs Hart was part of the prosecution team that put Britain's worst drink driver, John Williamson, behind bars and resulted in him being banned from the roads for nine lifetimes plus 109 years.

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service confirmed last night that a member of staff in the Tayside area is "not currently at work". She added: "In relation to the decision of the court at Arbroath, we require to consider whether there are grounds for appeal."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Question : Why does a fiscal sit in a car and drink a quarter bottle of vodka?

Answer : To forget why they exist & who their boss is !