A man accused of carrying out a serious assault in Scalloway was cleared by a majority verdict at the end of a two-day jury trial at Lerwick Sheriff Court yesterday.
Shaun Strachan, 44, of Burnside in Lerwick, denied assaulting 28- year-old joiner Peter Kay to his severe injury by striking him over the head with a bottle of port at the Scalloway Meat Company on 10th October last year.
Mr Strachan lodged a special defence before Sheriff Graeme Napier that he was acting in self defence.
The jury of 10 women and five men took approximately three quarters of an hour to return with their verdict, which was greeted in the courtroom with tearful hugs among friends and relations of Mr Strachan.
Much of the trial focused on CCTV images taken in the shop at the time leading up to the incident.
The film showed Mr Kay standing in a checkout queue close to Mr Strachan as he made to pay for his messages.
Mr Kay’s friend, John-Brian Adamson, was also in the queue along with Mr Adamson’s girlfriend Ann-Marie Goudie.
Mr Adamson had been making offensive faces and gestures behind Mr Strachan’s back while the men were in the queue.
The film showed the group moving towards the exit before having a discussion at the door.
The complainer’s hand was seen coming out towards Mr Strachan’s face, which jolted back in reaction. Mr Strachan then pulled Mr Kay by the arm and struck him twice with the bag of groceries he had just bought.
The bottle of port broke after the first blow, and Mr Kay staggered back into the shop dripping blood and port on the floor. Mr Kay was taken to the Gilbert Bain Hospital suffering from a severe head injury requiring five stitches.
Procurator fiscal Duncan MacKenzie asked the jury to accept Mr Strachan had acted violently and not in self defence.
“He [Mr Strachan] was exacting retribution,” Mr MacKenzie said. “He was meting out his own justice. It was a gross and gratuitous overreaction.”
Giving evidence Mr Adamson narrowly avoided being charged with contempt of court for prevaricating over his story.
The 21-year-old satellite and aerial installer told the court he had been drinking with Mr Kay at the Scalloway Boating Club from 9pm – approximately an hour before the CCTV footage was taken in the shop.
He denied being drunk, and said he could not remember why he had been making faces behind Mr Strachan’s back. On viewing the images Mr Adamson said: “It looks like I was making a fool of him.”
Procurator fiscal Duncan MacKenzie asked him: “Why were you doing it? You weren’t drunk. Why would somebody sober, simply in a shop to make some purchases, make fun of another customer?”
Mr Adamson replied: “I must have been drunker as I thought.”
The court also heard a statement from Ms Goudie which said Mr Adamson and Mr Kay had been at the boating club for “most of the afternoon” and “both had had a few drinks and were in good spirits”.
Sheriff Napier warned Mr Adamson: “When you came in here you took an oath to tell the truth. Could you please pay attention to that oath?”
Earlier Mr Kay said he had been drinking at the boating club with Mr Adamson on the night in question.
They had gone to the Scalloway Hotel for one drink where they met Ms Goudie before going to the shop, he said. However, he later admitted he had drunk eight tins of lager from 2pm onwards.
Questioned by Mr MacKenzie he said Mr Strachan had been “directing insults towards us” as the group moved towards the door having made their purchases.
The court heard Mr Adamson had been wearing a hooded top with the logo “I Love Sheep” on it.
“He [Mr Strachan] was calling us names. He called us sheep-shaggers, I’m sure,” Mr Kay said. He admitted raising his hand but repeatedly denied making contact with Mr Strachan.
He denied deciding to “square up” to Mr Strachan. “I never meant any ill-intent. I didn’t attack or hurt him,” he said.
Asked why he had not simply left the shop Mr Kay said: “I don’t know. It was just stupidness. I should have left.”
Mr Kay denied claims by defence agent Gregor Kelly that he and Mr Adamson had been making Mr Strachan “out to be an idiot” and “calling him a dafty”.
“Is it not that you were out [of the shop] and came back to take further pot-shots at the dafty and then end up having a swing at him?” Mr Kelly asked. Mr Kay replied: “No.” He also denied pushing his fingers up Mr Strachan’s nostrils, pushing his head back in doing so.
On Tuesday the court heardfrom Detective Sergeant Lindsay Tulloch, who had seen the CCTV images after being called to the crime scene.
He said the mood among the group seemed to be relaxed and good-natured while they were standing in the queue. He conceded Mr Strachan had retaliated after Mr Kay shot out his hand towards his face.
The court heard Mr Strachan had sustained a serious injury during the incident when broken glass had cut tendons in his hand.
DS Tulloch accepted Mr Strachan had been rushed away from the scene, not to evade capture, but to receive urgent medical help.
After being taken to the Gilbert Bain Hospital he was flown to the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary for further treatment.