HMA v James Mullen 2018

James Mullen who was found guilty of using a mobile phone, as a sat nav, at Inverness Sheriff Court while driving had his appeal against conviction dismissed. He was fined £300.00 and had 6 penalty points imposed. His appeal was based on the fact that the Justice’s conduct breached his right to a fair Trial.

It was argued that the Justice showed a bias towards the Crown case by stating the police witnesses were creditable in Court and by bringing their cross examination to an end prematurely and therefore, “lacked impartiality”. There were only the police witnesses in the case. However, the Appeal Court stated that the Justice was just simply bringing to an end a line of “repetitive, aggressive and ultimately futile and unproductive questioning.” It was suggested by the appellants legal team that the second police witness had “copied his colleague’s notebook” and did not see the device being used. However, the Justice found the Crown witnesses to be reliable but it was her comments made it Court about this that the appellant complained of.

In delivering the opinion of the Court the Sheriff Principal stated: “In our view, it does not indicate that the justice was expressing a view about the Crown evidence overall but was simply attempting to bring to an end a lengthy, unjustified and apparently abusive line of questioning.

In these circumstances, we are not persuaded that the Justice, who is not a professional judge, by her words would lead the fair minded and informed observer to conclude that there was actual bias or the real possibility of bias. Accordingly, we decline to pass the bill.” The appeal was therefore dismissed and the conviction upheld.