Witnesses locked up and threatened with perjury after trial collapses

Two witnesses have been locked up and could face perjury charges after failing to heed repeated warnings to tell the truth in court.

Charlotte Grace, 24, and Tai McGill, 22, had been summoned to give evidence in the trial of Haseeb Choudhary at Lerwick Sheriff Court today (Thursday).

But their attitude at the witness stand was of such concern to the court that both were remanded in custody overnight.

Sheriff Ian Cruickshank called the witnesses back to the stand after the conclusion of the trial and told them to reflect on their attitude.

Sending Close to the cells, Sheriff Cruickshank said her evidence had been “really quite shocking”.

“If that’s the nature in which the young people in Shetland think they will deal with matters in court then they’ve got another thing coming,” he said.

The sheriff said he would give careful consideration as to whether he would he holding Close in contempt .

He told her the procurator fiscal Duncan MacKenzie may decide to charge her with perjury.

Sheriff Cruickshank said she would have time to reflect on her behaviour in custody – and warned her she may have a longer spell spent locked up ahead of her.

Addressing McGill, the sheriff said he was “not in the slightest bit impressed” by his attitude or the way he gave evidence”.

“I think you need some time to think about your attitude in court,” he said as he sent him down to the cells.

The pair’s evidence saw the case against Choudhary collapse.

The 29-year-old, from Clairmont Place, Lerwick, had denied charges or careless driving and driving without insurance.

It related to a crash in Aith on 14th July last year when Close’s red Volkswagen Polo ended up on its roof.

When police arrived on the scene, at around 12.30am, Close, McGill and another woman, all told officers that Choudhary had been driving.

But when they were asked to give their evidence in court, they both insisted Close had been behind the wheel.

Mr MacKenzie repeatedly reminded both witnesses about the seriousness of lying in court.

Sheriff Cruickshank also explained to them the meaning of prevarication – when a witness deliberately attempts to mislead the court in their evidence.

Close was also reprimanded for yawning.

“I don’t think you understand how much trouble you are in,” the fiscal warned.

Close maintained she could not remember speaking to the police and said she was not thinking straight as she was on “gas and air” after the crash.

McGill also insisted he could not remember what happened, saying he had been “stupidly intoxicated”.

Based on the evidence, Sheriff Ian Cruickshank upheld the defence motion that there was “no case to answer” for Choudhary.

Choudhary  had already admitted three other charges of perverting the course of justice – by telling officers his name was “Khan Khan” – failing to give information and struggling with police.

For the admitted offences he was fined £900 plus a £40 victim surcharge and had six penalty points added to his licence.

He walked free from the court, while Close and McGill were taken down to the cells.

“I’ve got a dog,” Close protested as she was placed in handcuffs.

They are due to appear in court again tomorrow (Friday).


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