APPEAL COURT, HIGH COURT OF JUSTICIARY
OPINION OF THE COURT
THE HON. LORD SUTHERLAND
CHRISTOPHER GEORGE ARMITT
PROCURATOR FISCAL, KIRKCALDY
Appellant: Muir; Martin, Johnston & Socha
Respondent: Gray, A.D.; Crown Agent
28 May 1999
The appellant is Christopher George Armitt who was convicted of a contravention of sections 103(1)(b) and 143(1) of the Road Traffic Acts. The circumstances were that a Mrs Woodward was working in the kiosk of a filling station. She saw a yellow Fiesta car draw up to a petrol pump. She saw the driver get out, fill the car with petrol and come over to the kiosk to pay her. She recognised the driver as the appellant whom she knew as a regular customer. Accordingly therefore we start with the very clear evidence and identification of one witness. She saw the appellant also getting back into the driver's seat and drive off.
Police Constable Menzies was in the vicinity of the filling station. He apparently had received information that a person suspected of driving while disqualified had been seen driving in the area. He saw the yellow Fiesta and he saw it being filled up with petrol by the appellant whom he recognised. He drove by, and took up a point of observation further along the road. He did not however see the appellant driving the Fiesta. He did not however see anyone else in the vicinity of the car. It was he, later, who cautioned and charged the appellant and noted the appellant in reply as having said that he had not been driving but it was Sean Watson who had been driving. Another police constable, Marshall, having received a call from Constable Menzies, saw the Fiesta driving along the road. He could not see who the driver was but said that it did not appear that there was anyone else in the Fiesta. The difficulty with this Fiesta was that it had blackened windows which meant that there was difficulty in seeing into the car from the side. He followed the Fiesta to Kirkcaldy but lost sight of it. He then drove to the appellant's home which took about ten minutes from the time when they had lost him and when they arrived there a substantial number of police officers appear to have been present as was the yellow Fiesta. As the police officers were looking at the car and checking if the engine was warm, the appellant approached and asked if there was a problem. The police responded that they were simply checking it. The appellant admitted that it was his car but said that he had not been driving and that Billy Brown had been driving it. This of course will be noted as being a different person to the person he said had been driving when giving a reply to caution and charge.
Mr Muir on the appellant's behalf today has argued that the evidence was insufficient to entitle the sheriff to hold that the appellant was the driver of the vehicle. In our view the evidence was quite sufficient to entitle the sheriff so to hold. There was a very clear identification from Mrs Woodward who knew the appellant and had no doubt whatever that he was the driver. He was identified by Police Constable Menzies as being the person who was filling the car with petrol at the filling station. As far as Constable Marshall was concerned, he saw the Fiesta being driven and although he could not identify the driver, his evidence was that it did not appear that there was anyone else in the car.
When the various police officers arrived at the appellant's house shortly after the car had last been seen driving, the appellant was there and apparently no-one else was there. The appellant then gave an explanation that two different people had been driving the car.
In the whole circumstances we are entirely satisfied that the police evidence was ample to confirm and support the evidence given by Mrs Woodward that it was indeed the appellant who was driving the car. In these circumstances we shall answer questions 1 and 2 in the affirmative and refuse the appeal.