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18-month driving ban

A THIRTY six year old man has been banned from the road for 18 months after being found guilty of driving at speeds so excessive that police officers pursuing him were convinced there was going to be a crash.

Darron Smith, of Norhavn, Upper Hillside, Gulberwick, denied the dangerous driving charge but was found guilty following a short trial at Lerwick Sheriff Court on Tuesday.

Smith, who had a previous conviction for drink driving, was also fined £800 and will have to sit an extended driving test before getting his licence back.

The incident occurred on 8 March last year and saw Smith drive dangerously at excessive speed at Upper Langton, Gulberwick, and on the southbound A970. He also repeatedly crossed the road to overtake when it was unsafe to do so.

A chain of events began when Smith’s former partner, who stays at another Gulberwick address, asked a relative to phone the police after hearing someone banging on her doors and windows at around 1am that morning.

When the police arrived a man in a black Audi, later identified as Smith, sped off and the police decided to pursue him.

The two officers giving evidence said that, despite travelling at around 80-90mph, they had not been able to make any headway and believed he must have been driving in excess of 100mph.

Constable Jill Walker said they witnessed Smith overtaking several cars, including on a blind bend coming into Quarff with “no heed of what was coming in the other direction”.

The trial hinged on the reliability of the two officers’ identification of Smith. Constable Walker and her colleague Alex Lumsden rejected defence agent Iain MacGregor’s claim that they could only have caught a “fleeting glance” of the driver before he sped off.

Both repeatedly said they were 100 per cent certain the man was Smith. They recognised him from a newspaper photo published when his wife sadly died – a few weeks prior the incident – and because of a close resemblance he bore to a former Forth Valley police colleague.

“The person that I saw driving the car is the person sitting here today,” constable Lumsden said. “No doubt whatsoever.”

He added it was “without a doubt the fastest I’ve ever seen a car move – I can only say that it was going well over 100mph”.

After the vehicle passed Quarff they continued following and Lumsden “thought there was guaranteed to be a crash”, though thankfully that did not materialise.

Defence agent McGregor wanted to know why the “pretty important” detail of recognising him from a press photograph had been omitted from their incident reports.

But procurator fiscal Duncan Mackenzie said “too much can be made of shortcomings in statements” and officers were “not narrating a running commentary of everything they saw”.

In addition, Smith’s former partner had named him after police officers attending her home passed on a description of the man seen driving off.

McGregor claimed ID evidence was “notoriously unreliable”, but Sheriff Philip Mann said he was satisfied the charges had been proven.