Coastguard called to find fleeing fisherman after high speed police chase

A coastguard search and rescue team was called in after a dangerous driver abandoned his partner’s car and ran off in “atrocious” weather.

Daniel Johnson admitted five offences at Lerwick Sheriff Court today (Monday) and was subjected to an “extremely tight” curfew while awaiting sentence.

The court heard how the 19-year-old led police on a high speed chase on Saturday night when the weather was so horrendous that trained roads officers had to call the pursuit off due to safety concerns.

Johnson had already been disqualified from driving following a previous conviction. But that did not deter the young fisherman from taking his partner’s car from outside his home in Clothister, Sullom, without her permission or knowledge.

Procurator fiscal Duncan MacKenzie said police were first alerted after two officers in an unmarked car noticed his headlights were out.

Following in pursuit, they carried out a check which revealed the car was uninsured, and activated the blue lights for the accused to stop.

Rather than stopping, however, the court heard how Johnson “accelerated harshly” up Ladies Drive, past the Hoofields turnoff and out of town at “extreme speed”.

Mr MacKenzie said the road was winding and undulating and not appropriate to be driven at speed.

At the time in question, there was also heavy wind, rain and standing water across much of the road.

Officers followed Johnson onto the A970 towards Scalloway then the B9074 for East Voe.

Although officers were travelling at 90mph, they were failing to close the gap.

Mr MacKenzie said that although the officers had advanced driving qualifications, they were reluctant to drive any faster due to the the weather and road conditions.

They lost sight of him at the East Voe junction but flagged down another driver who told them he was headed towards Tronda.

Another police unit, which had been called to assist, was searching around a motor repair garage when Johnson emerged from behind a shed and drove off back the way he had come.

Reaching the Tronda bridge he was forced to wait for an oncoming vehicle, giving officers time to attempt another stop by pulling in front of him.

However, Mr MacKenzie said Johnson then pulled an “aggressive reversing manoeuvre”, before turning “harshly” so that his wheels lost traction before driving off again at “extreme speed”.

The fiscal said the accused was driving so fast his car could be seen veering back and forth across the carriageway due to the road conditions and high winds.

“He was going at more than double the speed limit as he entered the 30mph area and was continuing to open the gap between himself and the police vehicle,” Mr MacKenzie said.

The fiscal said the stretch of road had a number of blind summits and it became too dangerous for officers to continue their pursuit.

However, officers coming from the other direction came across Johnson abandoning the vehicle in the road.

He ran off into a field and was lost from sight, the court heard.

“At the time the weather was atrocious, with torrential rain and high winds and he was not appropriately dressed,” the fiscal said.

Due to concerns for the accused’s safety, a 15-person coastguard team was mustered to find the fleeing fisherman.

Meanwhile, however, the registered owner of the car – Johnson’s partner – was contacted and provide officers with a mobile phone number for the accused.

After picking up their call, Johnson agreed to hand himself in back where he had abandoned the car.

The coastguard officers were stood down before arriving.

Defence agent Tommy Allan accepted it had been an “atrocious” incident.

He said his client “knows full well there will be a heavy price to pay”.

Sheriff Ian Cruickshank called for reports ahead of sentencing.

Bailing Johnson, Sheriff Johnson said he would be subject to between an “extremely tight” curfew from 10.30pm to 5am.

“Effectively, other than work you will be at your house,” the sheriff said.


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