Drink driving farmer who was pursued by police spared jail term

A farmer who was chased by police for three miles after driving his Land Rover and trailer while almost three times the drink driving limit has been spared a prison sentence.

Instead Malcolm Symington, 45, of Brindister in Gulberwick, has been banned for four years and ordered to wear a tag seven nights a week for four months.

At Lerwick Sheriff Court today he was also ordered to carry out 180 hours of unpaid work and fined £400 for driving in “a reprehensible manner”.

However Sheriff Philip Mann stopped short of granting a Crown motion for the £12,400 Land Rover to be forfeited. He accepted an argument from defence agent Tommy Allan that the vehicle was needed for Symington’s farming interests, even though someone else will now have to drive it.

Symington had previously admitted driving dangerously on 3rd May with 99 microgrammes of alcohol in his breath, exceeding the legal limit of 35 microgrammes.

Police pursued him after he took to the wheel of the recently-acquired four-by-four. They chased him for three miles as he veered from side to side and crossed the central line of the A970 at the Black Gaet.

He failed to stop despite police using their sirens and lights in an attempt to make him pull over. Symington, who had only recently got his licence back, argued he was busy with lambing.

Sentence had been deferred for background reports to be compiled.

Mr Allan said Symington had been subjected to “a life-changing event” when he was the victim of a serious assault. His marriage had ended and he had “struggled to cope with many aspects of every-day life”.

He added Symington had worked “extremely hard” to maintain his farming interests.

“He’s not sat back and asked for sympathy. He has worked extremely hard, and if there is a criticism of him about this and that he’s trying to work too hard,” said Mr Allan.

“He’s been tearing around all over the place to the point of exhaustion trying to keep all the plates spinning.”

Procurator fiscal Duncan MacKenzie argued the Land Rover could be forfeited, even though it is the subject of a hire purchase agreement.

However Mr Allan said Symington had not breached his previous driving ban. He argued the vehicle could still be used to cover the large tracts of land Symington needed to check, even though someone else would be needed to drive it.

“My instructions are to oppose the forfeiture and to ask you to consider the recommendations in the report of a non-custodial sentence when dealing with this.”

Sheriff Mann told Symington: “This was an extremely reprehensible piece of driving. I was told the last time this case came up that this was at a busy time of day and the potential for harm being caused to the public was very high.

“This is a very, very serious charge which opens up the possibility of a custodial sentence. Not only did you drive whilst under the influence of alcohol, but this is the second such offence within a relatively short period.”

He added it was only because of financial difficulties Symington’s business had encountered, and his need to tender to his livestock, that he was being spared jail.

He declined the Crown’s motion for forfeiture of the vehicle, adding that – taking into account the other disposals – it would represent a penalty that was far more than could be justified.
However Symington will have to sit the extended test before he can get his licence back.


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