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Pair acquitted of dangerous driving on Highland road brought back to Inverness court

By Ali Morrison

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Inverness Sheriff Court.
Inverness Sheriff Court.

Two young drivers who had already been acquitted of dangerous driving at a trial last year were back in the dock today facing the same charge of racing their pals when one of them was killed.

It followed a Court of Appeal ruling to refer the case back to Sheriff Sara Matheson who presided over the trial in November 2020 and treat it as unfinished.

The three judges were considering an appeal by the prosecutor on the day, fiscal depute Iain Gray, but did not order a re-trial.

However the trial of 22-year-old Callum Fraser of Miers Avenue, Inverness, and 24-year-old Colin Maclennan of Park Terrace, Strathpeffer, was deemed part heard, and resumed at Inverness Sheriff Court today.

After hearing from all the lawyers and reviewing two days of evidence, Sheriff Matheson adhered to her not guilty verdict for MacLennan and convicted Fraser of a much reduced charge. He was found guilty of careless driving at excessive speed and overtaking when it was unsafe to do so.

He was fined £400 and had his licence endorsed with six penalty points.

The pair had denied a detailed charge accusing them of competitive driving, racing, jockeying for position, overtaking on blind bends and summits and driving at excessive speed.

But at the close of the prosecution case in November, defence solicitors Sam Milligan and Willie Young put a no case to answer submission to the sheriff.

Kyle Robertson, aged 20, was killed after being one of up to nine young drivers on the A835 near Garve on February 25, 2018.

His car was clipped by another being driven by 23-year-old Mikey Durdle from Beauly. The collision sent Mr Robertson's Seat Leon careering off the road, over a railway lane and crashing into trees.

Durdle was jailed for three years last year for causing his pal’s death.

Sheriff Matheson told the lawyers then: “On the basis of the evidence I have heard, I am satisfied that the Crown can’t prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.”

She upheld the defence submission but told MacLennan and Fraser: “Racing around the Highlands will be treated seriously by the courts as it can lead to the loss of young lives. There is no doubt you were part of this group."

When the trial resumed, neither of the defence lawyers, Sam Milligan for MacLennan or Willie Young for Fraser, elected to lead evidence on their clients' behalf.

Mr Gray then addressed Sheriff Matheson and urged her to convict Fraser and MacLennan, quoted previous case law and recapped on the evidence.

He said: "Their driving individually was dangerous and showed a course of conduct of bad driving and that they acted in concert. They were travelling at excessive speed, travelling too close together and too close to vehicles ahead.

"If it was not dangerous, a verdict of careless driving is open to the court."

Mr Milligan invited the sheriff to stick to her original verdict, saying the appeal court had rejected the Crown's argument that the pair were acting in concert, decided there was no dangerous driving by his client but that there could have been two instances of careless driving.

Mr Young said: "There was difficulty in many witnesses delivering a clear account of events that occurred in 2018. There are questions over their reliability of speeds travelled and overtaking. My client was overtaken, but there was no evidence that he was driving dangerously or carelessly."

Sheriff Matheson said she still had a reasonable doubt that MacLennan had driven dangerously. But she said there was evidence that Fraser had driven through Contin at over 40mph and that he should be convicted of careless driving. She added it was at the lower end of the scale.

The trial had heard that up to nine drivers of “hot hatch” type cars had met in Dingwall, drove to Contin where they stopped briefly before continuing towards Garve, overtaking cars and a gritter lorry on the way.

Minutes later there was the fatal collision.

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