A chef who told police he had fallen asleep at the wheel before his car crashed through a fence has been handed a 12 month driving ban.
Richard Clark, 33, had pleaded not guilty to dangerous driving at Lerwick Sheriff Court on Thursday, having changed his explanation to say the crash was caused by fog, rather than falling asleep.
Clark, who now lives in Fife, told the court he did not remember what he said to officers after the crash, which happened on the A970 between Fladdabister and Easter Quarff on 13th July 2019.
While he accepted having provided the sleeping explanation to officers at the time, Clark told the court it may have been because he felt it a “better answer” than saying he was driving at “silly speed” in the fog.
Clark’s father, Lesley Clark, who owned the Toyota Yaris his son was driving at the time, also gave police a statement the following month saying his son had told him he had fallen asleep.
He too told the court he could no longer recall having made the comments.
Sheriff Ian Cruickshank rejected the younger Clark’s explanation to the court, saying it “beggars belief”.
Finding Clark guilty of dangerous driving, Sheriff Cruickshank fined him £800 and disqualified him from holding or obtaining a licence for 12 months.
The court heard that at around 10pm on the night of the crash, Clark had dropped a friend off in Sumburgh before returning towards the Scalloway Hotel, where he was working at the time as an agency chef.
Under questioning from defence agent Tommy Allan, Clark told the court conditions became foggy, obscuring his vision and causing him to clip the side of the road, lose control and crash through a fence.
Clark admitted the speed of 30/40mph was “probably too fast”.
“I thought I was able to see enough but I was wrong, “he said.
Clark said he had tried to call police about the accident from the scene but had no phone signal.
He said a passing motorist, whose name he did not know, gave him a lift to Scalloway.
When back at the hotel, Clark claimed he had attempted calling the police again, but had been unable to get through and went to bed with the intention of trying again in the morning.
Police contacted Clark the following morning when they quizzed him about the accident.
When Mr Allan asked his client why he had told police he had fallen asleep, Clark admitted it was a “stupid thing” to do.
Procurator fiscal Duncan Mackenzie asked Clark why he would have been “anxious” to tell the police about the fog, as accidents “happen all the time”.
Clark said he thought it would have been a better answer but accepted it was “no excuse” to lie to police.
Mr Mackenzie also questioned why Clark’s father had also told police the same story about him falling asleep at the wheel, to which he had no explanation.
Addressing the Sheriff, Mr Mackenzie said the case on whether he accepted what Clark had told police at the time or his later explanation the court.
He said he did not understand the need for Clark’s “dishonesty” to police at the time.
“It may simply be, with the benefit of hindsight, it’s the only explanation he could come up with now in order to avoid being convicted,” he said.
Mr Allan suggested that if Sheriff Cruickshank did not agree his client was telling the truth in court, why should he instead believe he had been telling the truth to the police at the time.
He said it would mean convicting Clark on the basis of comments made to the police by an unreliable and untrustworthy witness.
Mr Allan said that while falling asleep at the wheel automatically constituted a dangerous driving offence, the public was not widely aware of this fact, which would explain why Clark had first used it as an explanation.
He said that for many people to say “I must have nodded off” would seem to be an “innocent explanation”.
Sheriff Cruickshank said Clark’s claims to the court were in “stark contradiction” to what he had told police, and he did not accept them.
Clark, who works as an executive chef in St Andrew’s, will have have to sit an extended driving test after his disqualification before he can obtain a licence again.