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Careless driving caused catastrophic injuries

A YELL salmon farm worker who nearly killed a man and a woman when he turned in front of their oncoming motorcycle escaped with his driving licence and a fine at Lerwick Sheriff Court on Wednesday.

The court heard how the couple spent six weeks in Aberdeen Royal Infirmary after the crash on Yell’s main A968 at Sellafirth last summer and they may never make a full physical recovery.

The collision took place on 14 July last year but it has taken until this month for Darren Saunders, of Innhouse, Sellafirth, to admit driving without due care and attention.

Defence agent Tommy Allan said that the matter had been taken out of his client’s hands when his insurance company insisted a road traffic expert inspect the scene where it happened.

Procurator fiscal Duncan Mackenzie said the couple had been returning from a weekend in Unst on their large and well equipped motorcycle when they were confronted by Saunders performing a right hand turn directly in front of them.

He said they had no time to take evasive action and collided straight into Saunders’ vehicle, being thrown “a significant distance”.

“The actual piece of driving was quite straightforward, but it was a life changing incident for the driver of the motorcycle and his pillion passenger,” Mr Mackenzie said.

“They are still undergoing extensive treatment for the injuries they received and indeed both are fortunate that they didn’t die as a result of this incident.”

Two local GPs attended the accident scene and carried out emergency first aid before the couple were airlifted to Gilbert Bain Hospital in Lerwick, where they were kept in a high dependency unit overnight before being flown to Aberdeen.

Both received multiple fractures to various parts of their body, along with other severe injuries. “Both are going to experience a significant deficit in their physical being for the rest of their lives; that’s what is expected at the moment,” the fiscal said.

“Clearly it’s a matter of incredible good fortune that we are not dealing with a double fatality here.”

He added that Saunders had tried to shift blame for the crash on the motorcyclist, but Mr Allan said this was not the case.

“It’s not been Mr Saunders himself in charge of the defence because it’s been taken over by his insurance company,” the defence agent said.

“He was extremely shaken by this incident as you might expect and has continued to be suffering from a great deal of anxiety about what’s going to happen with this.”

Mr Allan explained that his client had not willfully disregarded other road users, but in “a moment’s inattention” had turned right into a track where the gate was shut. “The only explanation is that his attention was drawn to the gate,” he said.

“The moment of carelessness was very brief and the consequence was extremely unfortunate, but I ask your lordship to take into account the level of carelessness by Mr Saunders rather than the outcome of that.

“Clearly this won’t be the end of the matter, I would expect this would continue in other courts if it’s not settled out of court.”

Sheriff Philip Mann said it was a matter of “enormous good fortune” that Saunders was not facing more serious charges.

He acknowledged the “catastrophic effect” the accident had on the couple, but added: “I have to charge you with driving without due care and attention and I have to deal with you on that basis and try to put out of my mind as far as I can the consequences of the driving in question.”

He said that Saunders had two previous driving convictions that showed he had little regard for road traffic regulations, and had left him with three penalty points on his licence.

For this offence he gave him a further seven penalty points, reduced from nine for his guilty plea, which leaves him two points short of losing his licence. He also fined him £500.

The sheriff added: “I would say that in sentencing I have not overlooked the catastrophic effect of your driving, but the fact of the matter is that nothing I can do today is going to make any difference to them.”