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Court / Drug driver who was Covid positive banned and ordered to pay compensation

A MAN who crashed his car while under the influence of drugs when he should have been self-isolating after testing positive for Covid-19 has been banned from driving and ordered to pay £4,500 in compensation. 

Lerwick Sheriff Court heard on Wednesday that 25 year old Lee Graham had put several police officers, NHS workers and a member of the public at risk by failing to disclose that he was carrying the virus on Boxing Day last year.

Graham, of Gott, admitted driving on the A970 at Girlsta on 26 December while unfit through drink or drugs.

He also admitted culpably and recklessly failing to self-isolate or socially distance – exposing numerous people to the risk of contracting the virus to the danger of their lives.

In addition to a 16-month disqualification for driving under the influence and an 18-month community payback order under supervision, Graham was ordered to pay £1,000 compensation to a member of the public who found him after his car had gone off the road, £2,000 to NHS Shetland and £1,500 to the Dogs Against Drugs charity.

Procurator fiscal Duncan Mackenzie said the incident took place in the context of a significant outbreak of Covid-19 in the North Mainland before Christmas. Graham tested positive on 23 December and had been self-isolating for three days.

A member of the public had been travelling north to work at around 5am and saw Graham’s car in a field. He drove on and encountered Graham, who initially tried to enlist his help in towing the car back onto the road.

The man gave Graham, who did not tell him he was Covid positive, a lift home to Tingwall in his car and later contacted the police.

When they attended Graham’s address, the fiscal said, he was slow to respond, chewing his lips and his pupils were dilated.

After admitting to having taken cocaine as well as being the driver who had gone off the road, police decided to take him to the Gilbert Bain Hospital for a precautionary assessment.

After it was established at the hospital that he was the duty manager at a North Mainland hotel associated with an outbreak of the virus, Graham confessed that he had tested positive.

Mackenzie said the North Mainland outbreak had been significant enough that it was “mentioned more than once” by Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon during her daily briefings.

The knock-on effects of Graham’s conduct were considerable. The member of the public had to isolate and was unable to work, while five officers – two of whom are asthmatic – also had to isolate, creating a staffing headache for the local police service.

Graham had also been taken through the area of the hospital reserved for non-Covid patients, resulting in the need for a “lengthy and arduous decontamination process”.

Defence agent Liam McAllister said it was the “height of irony” that his client could not appear in person at court on Wednesday as he had been contacted by test-and-trace and instructed to self-isolate.

He said Graham’s actions were, in his own words, “inexcusable” and “irresponsible” and he wanted to offer a “sincere apology to the wider community and those who were directly affected”.

McAllister said his client reflected on his actions “almost every day” but he had been able to turn a “catastrophic life decision into a catalyst for something positive”.

Graham has been drug-free for seven months and expressed a desire to repay the debt he owes everyone for his “appalling behaviour”, McAllister added.

Sheriff Iain Cruickshank said it was “by good fortune” that no one was infected with Covid-19 as a result of Graham’s actions, but he had accepted culpability and his “shame and remorse is palpable”.

Graham can reduce his 16-month driving ban by four months if he successfully completes a rehabilitation course.