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Acquitted over raising finger at witness

Graham McNally leaving court last month. Photo ShetNews

A FORMER salmon manager accused of sticking his middle finger up at a witness in an investigation over seal deaths in Shetland was acquitted in Lerwick Sheriff Court on Wednesday.

Graham McNally, of 20 Fogralea, Lerwick, denied that he gesticulated at 41 year old Brydon Goodlad on 4 October last year while he and his wife were leaving the town in their car.

Sheriff Philip Mann did not believe McNally’s claim he never made the gesture, but said it may not have been intended to upset the Goodlads.

Last month 52 year old McNally pled guilty and was fined £800 for setting nets to trap or kill seals at the Hoganess salmon farm in 2011, for which he lost his job as Shetland’s regional manager with Norwegian-owned Meridian Salmon.

The conviction followed a lengthy investigation by the wildlife charity SSPCA, with five witnesses lined up to give evidence.

The trial was abandoned after McNally pled guilty to a reduced charge.

On Wednesday the court heard that tensions were high in the run up to the trial, where Goodlad was to give evidence against McNally and site manager Ross Morrison, who had charges against him dropped altogether.

Goodlad told the court that last October he and his 31 year old wife Sylvia were getting into their car on Commercial Street when they saw McNally and Morrison walk past.

He said he heard McNally swear at him and as they drove away he and his wife saw him stick his middle finger up at the car.

“I felt annoyed and alarmed; my wife was intimidated and that annoyed me. Now she won’t come into town unless I am with her. I find that very alarming,” he said.

Giving evidence, McNally said he had no memory of the incident whatsoever and denied he could have made the abusive gesture.

Instead he insisted he was the victim of a conspiracy by the SSPCA and the Goodlads in the run up to his trial.

“Certain people were trying to get as much evidence against me and make things look as bad as possible,” he said.

Procurator fiscal Duncan Mackenzie described the incident as “minor” and could not amount to intimidating a witness.

It was only in the context of the impending trial that McNally had been charged with threatening or abusive behaviour likely to cause a reasonable person fear or alarm.

Defence agent Tommy Allan said it was “a dangerous state of affairs” if a simple gesture could lead to such a conviction.

But Sheriff Philip Mann found the case against McNally not proven because the Goodlads only saw the gesture in their rear view mirrors.

“It seems to me there is a distinct possibility that the accused didn’t even intend the complainers to see his action and what he was doing in the context of the whole thing might reasonably be seen as venting his frustration or anger or whatever else he was venting,” the sheriff said.

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