Sheriff makes outspoken attack on level of drink driving in Shetland

The sheriff has made a renewed attack on the level of drink driving in Shetland, insisting too many people are getting behind the wheel while under the influence.

Sheriff Graeme Napier warned several offenders they risked being jailed when they appeared at Lerwick Sheriff Court on today.

He said the message of how unacceptable drink driving had become was failing to get through.

“I’m very concerned that so many people are appearing in this court … on excess alcohol charges.”

His comments came as Marina Sinclair pleaded guilty to driving while over twice the legal limit in poor road conditions on Christmas Eve.

The 54-year-old, of Virkie, had stayed up the previous night drinking a bottle of vodka. She admitted driving dangerously and at excessive speeds for the prevailing road and weather conditions.

Deprived of sleep, she failed to keep control of her car and collided with another vehicle. She was discovered with 164 milligrammes of alcohol in her system.

Procurator fiscal Duncan MacKenzie said heavy snow meant road conditions were “not good” at the time.

“Clearly of concern is the quantity of alcohol she had consumed,” he said. “She told police she had been up all night and had consumed as much as a bottle of vodka.

“She expressed a desire to go to jail. She is clearly someone with a severe alcohol problem, if not dependency.”

He said she had failed to apprehend the “severity” of the incident and “the potential for real injury, if not worse”.

The court heard Sinclair had a similar previous conviction from only two years ago.

Referring to her stated wish to go to jail, the sheriff said he was “minded to give her her wish”.

“I’ll look at all  the alternatives, but that’s certainly an option.”

Defence agent Chris Dowle said his client did not now want to go to prison, and was in a state of shock at the time of the incident.

Sheriff Napier said he had hoped the message would now be getting through “that you can’t get behind the wheel of a car whilst under the influence of alcohol”.

“But there are so many appearing today that it appears that message is not getting across sometimes.”

Disqualifying her, he deferred sentence until 1st June for background reports to be compiled.

A North Nesting man was also warned he faced a possible jail term after driving while almost three times over the limit.

John Wishart, 67, of Brettabister, drove under the influence on the B9075 at Skellister.

He also failed to comply with police requests for a preliminary breath test.

Wishart alarmed a shop keeper who noticed he was unsteady on his feet while selling him a bottle of whisky.

He had left the shop and got into his car before driving off.

“This is another one with a previous conviction,” Mr MacKenzie told the court.

Mr Allan said Wishart, a crofter, had not been sleeping well during the lambing season.

“He spent time in custody in relation to this, and accepts there is a major problem with alcohol,” he said.

He added Wishart was getting help from the community alcohol and drugs project.

Mr Allan said Wishart had co-operated with him.

However, deferring sentence until 1st June for reports, the sheriff told Wishart: “Given the level of alcohol and your lack of co-operation at the time, and given your previous conviction, it’s quite possible you’ll end up in custody this time.”

Sentence was also deferred on a man who admitted driving while over three times the limit.

Scott McCulloch, 37, of Lerwick’s Mill Lane, took to the wheel just months after getting his licence back after a previous offence.

Police officers had seen McCulloch’s car and were concerned by the way it was being driven.

Defence agent Tommy Allan said McCulloch had not tried to offer excuses for the offence.

McCulloch, a scaffolder, risked having his car confiscated, although that motion was withdrawn. The court heard the car was leased through McCulloch’s employers.

Sheriff Napier said it was “just ridiculous” that he had driven under the influence so soon after a period of disqualification.

New Zealander Jason Webb, was fined £500 and disqualified for 12 months after admitting driving with 88 milligrammes of alcohol in his system a week before Christmas.

Webb, 39, of Grindibrek, Skeld, pleaded guilty to drink driving in Lerwick’s King Harald Street on 18th December.

Webb, a hospital chef, had been delivering Christmas presents and had “accepted hospitality” at one of the houses he went to.

He can reduce his ban by three months if he completes a drink driving rehabilitation course.

Laurence Dalziel, 62, of Shurton Brae in Gulberwick, is starting a two-year ban after driving with just over two and a half times the limit in his system.

Dalziel was also fined £700. He was caught two days before Christmas on the B9074 road from Tingwall to Scalloway.

Police found Dalziel’s car by the side of the road. He co-operated with police but failed the roadside test.

Finally, Irishman Thomas Smith was fined £600 and disqualified for 15 months after he was caught drink driving last summer.

Smith, 41, c/o Hillside House in Upper Scalloway, drove with 111 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood – the legal limit is 80 milligrammes.


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