HMA v Gary McKnight

Mr McKnight who was found guilty of driving his car at a cyclist had his appeal against conviction quashed. He was found guilty of assaulting John Rawding to his severe injury and to the danger of his life by driving his car at him and also assaulting a second complainer. This was after Mr Rawding stole his girlfriend’s bike. The appellant was sentenced to four years imprisonment after a Trial at Falkirk Sheriff Court. However, the High court ruled that there has been a “miscarriage of justice.”

This was because the original judge had failed to inform that the jury that even though the accused had responded with “no comment” to questioning in his police interview, his statements to the officers at the interview that the collision “accidental” and that he was acting in “self-defence” was available to them as evidence. The appellant after being detained by the police was interviewed in the presence of his solicitor replied “no comment” to questioning but also went on to give an explanation of what happened.

In relation to the man he hit he stated he wanted to cut his escape by driving into the gap in the wall and that he did not intentionally hit him and in relation to the second complainer he argued this was in self-defence that he hit this man. In the original Sheriffs charge to the jury he did not explain and give directions on the appellant’s “mixed statements”. The appellant argued on appeal that these statements were central to his defence.

Allowing the appeal, the appeal judges stated that these statements were the “crux” of his defence and the sheriff’s omission amounted to a miscarriage of justice. Delivering the court, Lord Menzies concluded: “The sheriff’s failure to give a direction specifically about how the jury should treat the police interview was exacerbated by the way in which he directed the jury in other passages of his charge.”

It was therefore concluded that this was a miscarriage of justice and the conviction was quashed.