PF v Mark McLaughlin 2019

Mr McLaughlin who appealed his dangerous driving conviction to the Sheriff Appeal Court has had his appeal refused. The appellant had argued that the original trial Sheriff had erred in holding that an accident had occurred in the circumstances of the case and that Mr McLaughlin’s driving was more than careless driving.

The Court heard that Mr McLaughlin was found guilty of a dangerous driving charge after an incident that occurred in May 2018 whereby Mr McLaughlin had overtaken a camper then harshly pressed his brakes forcing the camper van to do an emergency stop. The incident occurred after the appellant followed the van as a result of a road rage incident. The camper van managed to avoid the appellant’s car but the appellant once the van stopped got out and assaulted the passenger. The defence entered a no case to answer submission at the trial because of the finding in law that the appellant had not been warned at the time of the offence or written to within 14 days. However, the Crown stated this did not need to be complied with because an accident had occurred. The Sheriff agreed. The defence disputed this and stated that no accident had in fact occurred. The crown argued that the accused’s actions, even although there was no crash, constituted an accident. The Sheriff also indicated that it would be obvious that this way of driving was dangerous when convicting the appellant after the trial. The appellant argued that given the circumstances of the case both in relation to the speed and nature of the way that he acted this did not amount to a dangerous driving. The appellant also argued that each case had to turn in its circumstances and it was clear that an accident did not occur in this present case

Sheriff Braid said in concluding the appeal: “It is always legitimate to compare the facts of one case with those of another in deciding whether a particular incident can or cannot be categorised as an accident. In the present case, it was not so much that the complainer had to do something which he would. We refer again to the fact that as a consequence of the appellant’s driving, the complainer required to execute an emergency stop, on a normally busy trunk road. This was not as a result of mere inadvertence on the appellant’s part, but followed his deliberately driving after the appellant, cutting in front of him and forcing him to stop, in what can clearly be seen, from the findings in fact, to be a road-rage incident. In our view that does fall far below the standard to be expected of a competent and careful driver, and it would be obvious to such a driver that driving in that way would be dangerous. Accordingly, the sheriff correctly found the appellant guilty of the contravention of section 2.” The appeal was therefore refused.