A YOUNG apprentice joiner has been jailed for four years and eight months for causing the death of his friend in a high-speed car crash after a night out drinking in Lerwick.
Ross Sutherland, 20, was told by judge Lord Menzies at the High Court in Edinburgh on Wednesday that he had driven at “horrendously dangerous speeds” on the 4th of November last year while over the limit. The crash killed Sutherland’s friend Ian Sandison, 18.
Lord Menzies told Sutherland: “You killed a close friend and you will have to live with that for the rest of your life.”
Only his plea of guilty, which had avoided the emotional stress of a trial for the Sandison family, had saved Sutherland from a seven-year sentence, the judge added.
The court heard how on the night in question Ian Sandison had been arguing with his brother Magnus about who should drive home before Sutherland took the wheel. He was the least affected by drink.
Advocate depute David Young, prosecuting, said Ian Sandison died from a massive head injury when he was thrown from the back seat of the car and hit the rear-view mirror.
“It is highly likely that he would have sustained only minor injuries had he been wearing a seat belt,” Mr Young added.
The court heard that the three men, all from Bigton, had spent a Saturday trying to repair a broken car before heading for Lerwick in the evening.
Mr Young said they spent the next three hours or so drinking beer, spirits and alcopops. As the evening wore on they met up with other friends and became separated.
At around midnight Magnus Sandison found his brother in another pub and noticed he was so drunk he had been sick. They headed for a taxi rank, intending to go home, but there were no available taxis.
Ian Sandison said he would drive the 20 miles home. Magnus said he would drive because he was less drunk. Ian gave him the keys, then took them back.
Mr Young said that as they argued Sutherland arrived and said he would drive – even though he had only a provisional licence.
The court heard that Sutherland’s driving was “unremarkable” until they got to South Lochside.
“At this point he accelerated extremely rapidly until he was travelling along this road at speeds estimated by a pedestrian to be between 70mph and 90mph,” Mr Young said.
Police accident experts later said the speed when Sutherland crashed was probably between 62mph and 76mph in a 30mph zone.
Sutherland was found to have an alcohol level of 107mg in 100ml of blood – the limit is 80mg.
Magnus Sandison was said to be “uncomfortable” but his brother said to Sutherland: “I like your driving” and “Don’t worry – I don’t mind if you write off the car”.
The court heard that Sutherland went round a roundabout in the wrong direction, drove on the wrong side of the road down South Road, veered back across the road and hit the kerb.
“At this point the accused lost all control of the car,” Mr Young said. The Vauxhall Vectra crossed the road twice, mounted the pavement and slammed, head on, into a stone wall.
“The impact of the collision was such that the deceased was catapulted into the front of the car, striking his head on the interior mirror which caused a fatal injury,” Mr Young said.
Witnesses found Ian Sandison “barely clinging to life” and Sutherland unconscious with his head on the vehicle’s air bag.
Sutherland needed an operation to his knee and Magnus Sandison escaped with minor injuries.
Sutherland later told police he remembered nothing between getting into the driver’s seat of the Vectra and sitting in a police car at the crash site.
He also confirmed he was a provisional licence holder who had never had any formal training.
When Sutherland returned to court to be sentenced, defence advocate David Moggach said he was haunted by the death of his friend. All three men had lived in a small community.
A background report about Sutherland said: “The shock of this event, losing a close friend in such an avoidable accident, has had a profound effect on this young man.”
Lord Menzies said he accepted that Sutherland had shown genuine remorse but added: “It seems to me this is not a case which falls at the lowest end in the scale of causing death by dangerous driving”
Sutherland was also banned from driving for five years.