The High Court has determined that the accused, Graham Turner, could not pervert the course of justice by simply stating his defence  to the charges.
The accused had been charged with causing two deaths by dangerous driving. The accused stated that his defence was that a deer had run onto the road which caused him to swerve which he had stated to those who attended the scene.
Whilst Mr Turner was driving on the M9 near to Stirling at approximately 6:30am his vehicle is said to have left the road, gone down the embankment and flipped onto its roof. The two male passengers in the accused’s car died at the scene.
Mr Turner had told those who attended the scene including other motorists and paramedics that a deer had run onto the road and he had swerved to avoid it. Following Mr Turner’s caution in the back of the ambulance the same version of events was provided to the police.
The charges were that to the effect that Mr Turner had fallen asleep at the wheel leading to the crash and therefore both deaths by dangerous driving and secondly that Mr Turner attempted to pervert the course of justice, being conscious of his guilt, by providing a false story regarding a deer running onto the road.
It was argued that since there was no police investigation at the time the version of events were given there could be no course of justice to pervert. The advocate depute had argued that a course of justice commenced when a suspected crime had taken place and in this case that was when the crash occurred.
Delivering the opinion of the court, Lord Turnbull stated:
“Whilst it is clear that the authorities were alerted to the need for assistance before the accused spoke to anyone specified in charge 2, there is no suggestion that anyone involved at that stage thought that they were reporting a crime.”
“If an incident was of such a nature that it was plainly open to the inference that the police investigation might result in criminal proceedings against someone, then it was an investigation which can properly be said to have been in the course of justice since it had already begun and was in the hands of the police. That is the situation which applied when the attending police officers spoke to the present accused.”
In conclusion, Lord Turnbull stated:
“The uninterrupted flow of the course of justice includes an assessment of the accused’s defence. The course of justice is not ‘interfered’ with by having to take account of a claim to be innocent, whether that claim is in the end rejected or not. On the contrary, the uninterrupted course of justice requires that such a claim is fully weighed. In reaching this decision I am fortified by the obvious contrast with previous charging practice which is disclosed in the present indictment.”