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Man Loses Appeal Against Conviction For Road Traffic Offence After Falling Asleep Behind The Wheel

Wilson v PF [2021] SAC 4

Andrew Wilson was convicted under section 2 of the Road Traffic Act 1998, following an incident where he collided with the central reservation after falling asleep behind the wheel. During his arrest, Mr Wilson told police officers that he “dosed off”. This formed the basis of the Crown case.

During trial, Mr Wilson sought to argue that the interview conducted by the police was unfair as he had not been provided with legal advice and that he had been intimidated into speaking to officers in the back of the police car. Following a trial within a trial that was held, the Sheriff determined that the interview was admissible and that it could be used as evidence. Mr Wilson was subsequently convicted under s.2 of the Road Traffic Act.

Mr Wilson sought to appeal his conviction on the basis that the police interview in the back of the police car was both so unfair and intimidating that it should not have been admissible during his trial. The Crown, in response, argued that conducting the interview in the police car was the only practical and safe way to do so, as both the police, the appellant and his wife were on the hard shoulder of a busy motorway. The Crown further submitted that the police asked fair questions and that the appellant offered his response willingly, without intimidation. 

The opinion of the Appeal Court was delivered by Sheriff Principal Steven, who said: “The submissions made to the sheriff focussed on when the appellant became a suspect. It could be said that when the appellant approached the police officers to inform them of the circumstances of the collision and confirmed he was the driver he potentially fell into the category of suspect.”

In addressing the question fairness, and whether the police were correct to name his as a suspect after he confirmed he was asleep, the Court held that: “The appellant confirmed he had been the driver in response to the s172 requirement. He was cautioned prior to being asked any question. The first question posed was open and neutral – ‘Anthony, I am making enquiries into a one vehicle RTC [on] the A74(M) northbound carriageway. What, if anything, can you tell me about this?’ We do not consider that this can be categorised as questioning designed to elicit an incriminating response.”

Deciding on the question of whether the police were correct to interview the appellant in a police car, the Sheriff Principal said: “There could be little doubt at all in the mind of the appellant what the police were asking questions about, standing what had occurred. Conducting the interview in the back of the police vehicle, whilst not ideal, cannot be considered either intimidating or oppressive given the locus of the accident on a major traffic route which at that precise area was classified as a motorway.”

Accordingly, the Appeal was refused.

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