Man acquitted of assault after procurator fiscal calls his own witness’s evidence ‘absurd’

A man accused of assault was acquitted after his accuser’s evidence fell apart so much that even the prosecution described it as absurd.

Michael Malone, 53,  complained to police that Hugh Ferguson, 57, threw a bucket containing cleaning chemicals over him causing him to suffer burns.

The alleged assault was said to have taken place at Cooke Aquaculture in Mid Yell, where the two men were working on 13th August 2020.

But when procurator fiscal Duncan Mackenzie began questioning Mr Malone, his only witness, during the trial at Lerwick Sheriff Court today (Thursday) the claims began to unravel.

Mr Malone had accused Mr Ferguson of deliberately throwing the bucket of caustic liquid over him and soaking his torso.

But when asked about the injuries he had suffered, Mr Malone referred to medical records showing his right wrist had been burned. 

Given Mr Malone was wearing protective gloves at the time of the alleged assault, and as the area where he said the liquid had touched him was unharmed, Mr Mackenzie questioned how he could blame the wrist injury on what he claimed had happened.

Mr Mackenzie told Mr Malone that he “surely must recognise the absurdity of” what he was saying.

Sheriff Ian Cruickshank also questioned his version of events.

“Surely it would have been your torso that would have been burned,” he said.

Sheriff Cruickshank suggested the incident was “something of nothing” and Mr Malone was “making a big deal of it” because he did not like Mr Ferguson. 

Mr Malone disagreed.

Under further questioning, however, Mr Malone admitted he was not even sure the bucket contained chemicals when it was thrown at him, despite having told police it had in a statement on 19th December.

The incident was reported to have happened at the end of their shift, while Mr Maloney was hosing the walls down, and Mr Ferguson was washing his “pinny” in the bucket. 

While Mr Maloney insisted it had been thrown deliberately at him, Mr Mackenzie suggested another intepretation.

Having watched CCTV footage of the incident, Mr Mackenzie suggested that Mr Maloney may have been inadvertently splashed Mr Ferguson with his hose to which Mr Ferguson had reacted.

Mr Maloney insisted he had not been splashing anyone with his hose and said he had warned his colleagues to keep out of the way to avoid doing so.

After Mr Maloney left the witness stand Sherriff Cruickshank immediately acquitted Mr Ferguson.


Get Latest News in Your Inbox

Join the The Shetland Times mailing list to get one daily email update at midday on what's happening in Shetland.