HMA v GEORGE McLEOD

Today at the High Court in Edinburgh Lord Mackay of Drumadoon fined George McLeod £1500 after he was found guilty of dangerous driving in Aberdeen on the 14 November 2008.

On sentencing Lord Mackay made the following statement in court:

“When you stood trial in Perth High Court last month, the jury acquitted you of causing the death of Mrs. Mary Findlay on 14 November 2008 by dangerous driving.

However, when the jury returned their verdict, they did not acquit you entirely on the indictment you faced. As it was open to them to do so, the jury convicted you of dangerous driving. That charge is a serious one, although it is much less serious than the charge you originally faced.

 In these circumstances, it is important that I make clear at the outset that in sentencing you on the charge of which you were convicted, the law requires me to leave entirely out of account the fact that on 14 November 2008, in Provost Rust Drive, Aberdeen, you were involved in the accident as a consequence of which Mrs. Findlay died.

 

The jury convicted you of dangerous driving because they were satisfied that the Crown had proved that on 14 November 2008 your eyesight was impaired as a result of your suffering from diabetes, that when you drove that day you were aware that your eye sight was impaired and that it would have been obvious to a competent and careful driver that it would have been dangerous to drive with eyesight impaired to the extent that yours was. 

This morning Mr. Moggach accepted on your behalf that having regard to the evidence the jury heard it is difficult to see what other conclusion they could have reached. However, it would appear from the terms of the social enquiry report that has been prepared by a social worker following the trial that you still maintain that prior to the accident you had never considered that your vision had become impaired to the extent of affecting your ability to drive.

I find that position very difficult to reconcile with the detailed evidence the jury heard from a number of medical witnesses. During 1995 you were diagnosed with diabetes. That year you wrote to the driving licence authority, DVLC, informing them of the diagnosis. The Court heard evidence that when DVLC replied they told you that you could keep your driving licence, but that you should advise them if you developed problems with the vision in both of your eyes or you underwent laser treatment to both eyes. In other words, it was for you, not for your medical advisers, to keep the driving licence authority informed about your eyesight. That authority is now called DVLA.

Since your diagnosis with diabetes in 1995, you have been under the care of your general practitioners and medical staff at the Eye Outpatient Department at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary. Over that period of time your eye sight has been tested on numerous occasions. Your eyes have frequently been the subject of detailed medical examination and you have been treated by a number of doctors, who specialise in the treatment of patients, such as yourself, whose eyesight has deteriorated on account of their diabetes.

The Court heard evidence that by 2004 the eyesight in your right eye had begun to deteriorate and that subsequently the eyesight in your left eye did the same.  The Court also heard evidence that following 2004, your eyesight continued to deteriorate in both eyes.

In particular the Court heard evidence about what happened when you were examined by an experienced eye specialist at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary in November 2007. She noted that your eyes had both deteriorated since your last visit to the hospital. On account of that further deterioration she organised that you undergo laser treatment to both eyes. The medical records indicate that when she saw you on that occasion she warned you that your vision was now borderline for driving and that you should inform DVLA of the situation. You failed to do so.

Likewise, when you received laser treatment to both eyes over the next few months, you failed to inform DVLA of that fact, despite your having been advised back in 1995 that it was your duty to do so. Indeed, one of the doctors who carried out laser treatment to one of your eyes in early 2008 explained that as a matter of routine she would have advised you that your eyesight had deteriorated; and she would enquired of you whether you had advised DVLA about the treatment you were undergoing. Her evidence was entirely consistent with it having been your duty to advise DVLA of the position, not the duty of your doctors.

During his evidence, Dr Olson, the consultant in charge of the eye department at which you were treated, expressed the opinion that by March 2008 you would have been aware that your eyesight was deteriorating.

In these circumstances, the evidence the jury heard indicated, quite clearly, that by late 2007 and early 2008 your eyesight had deteriorated significantly and that you should have reported that deterioration, and the laser treatment you were receiving, to DVLA. Had you done so, your licence would probably have been withdrawn.

You no longer hold a driving licence. Having regard to your medical condition, it is extremely unlikely that you will ever do so. Nevertheless it is appropriate that I should disqualify you from driving. I do so for a period of 10 years from today’s date, and order that you will require to sit a further driving test in the event that you were to seek a new licence. In imposing that disqualification, I fully accept that you do not intend to drive again and that the order disqualifying you from driving may prove to be academic.

Since the trial I have considered what sentence I should impose on you. The social enquiry report discloses that you have a very limited number of previous convictions. They involved minor matters and are of no relevance to the present case. You have obviously never served a prison sentence.

Having given the matter a great deal of thought, I have reached the conclusion that it would not be appropriate for me to impose a prison sentence for the offence of which you have been convicted. Nor would it be appropriate for me to impose a community service order. Such an order can only be imposed as a direct alternative to the imposition of a custodial sentence.

In view of your age and state of health, including the treatment you have undergone since the date of the accident, I have reached the view that placing you on probation would neither serve the public interest nor benefit you.

In these circumstances I have reached the conclusion that the only sentence that would be appropriate for me to impose would be a fine. That fine has to take account of the serious nature of the offence you committed, your financial resources and what has been said on your behalf today by Mr. Moggach.

On the basis of the information available to me, I fix that fine at £1500. I will allow 8 months for payment, to enable you to release the necessary funds from the ISA account. The fine will be payable to the Sheriff Clerk in Aberdeen”.

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