HMA v Lesley McAllister

A police officer from Aberdeen found guilty of careless driving after crashing into another vehicle while responding to an emergency call has had an appeal against conviction and sentence refused. The Sheriff Appeal Court upheld the Sheriff’s decision to convict and impose a fine stating that a driver of a vehicle displaying blue lights and sounding its siren “is not relieved of his or her obligations to drive with due care and attention”. PC Ms McAllister was driving a marked police car under blue light conditions in Aberdeen when a red Mini was signalling to turn right.

The police vehicle was on the wrong side of the carriageway. As the police vehicle approached the junction the driver of the Mini commenced her right turn and the collision occurred. Both vehicles were damaged and the police officer in the front passenger seat of was injured. Both drivers were charged with a contravention of section 3 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 and following Trial at Aberdeen Sheriff Court both drivers were convicted of careless driving and a fine of £400 was imposed together with four penalty points. However, the police officer who had been driving appealed. Counsel for the appellant argued that the Sheriff erred in repelling a defence submission of “no case to answer”.

His argument was that the collision only occurred because of the failure of the co-accused to drive with due care and attention. It was emphasised that the emergency services owe a duty to other road users and there can be no suggestion that they are entitled to take “greater risks”.

Refusing the appeal, Sheriff Principal Stephen concluded that “He took the view that the appellant ought to have reduced her speed and adjusted her road position to enable her to bring her vehicle to a halt in the event that the third party vehicle did commence its manoeuvre much in the same way that she would approach a red stop light which she intended to pass through. The sheriff has set out his findings in fact and the evidence upon which he makes these findings with considerable care and clarity and his reasoning cannot be faulted.” Furthermore, the court observed that a driver under blue light conditions “is not relieved of his or her obligations to drive with due care and attention.”