Careless driving cost £34,000 damage to Linlithgow home

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A delivery driver botched a brake repair job on his car before parking it on a steep hill, a court heard.

Anthony Davie watched in horror as his car ­– with its engine still running – rolled backwards downhill and embedded itself in the wall of a house.

Davie ran after the vehicle, but was powerless to stop it bouncing over grass verges and ploughing through a fence before partly demolishing a couple’s new kitchen extension.

Depute fiscal Jack Caster told Livingston Sheriff Court that the accident caused around £34,000 worth of damage to Alistair and Gail Hull’s detached home in Linlithgow.

Mr Caster told how Davie had got out of the car in Priory Road to make a delivery.

“On leaving the vehicle unattended the handbrake failed causing the vehicle to roll backwards down the incline of the hill.

“It rolled across the opposing carriageway of the cul-de-sac, over the grass verge at the southern side of the access road and continued over the main road.“There was no other traffic present and it continued over the north verge colliding with and demolishing the rear garden fence of the property before striking the rear wall causing severe structural damage to the exterior wall and the kitchen space inside.”

When Mr and Mrs Hull went into their garden to see the vehicle embedded in their extension wall, the accused arrived and told them the car was his.

Mr Caster added: “The accused admitted to police who questioned him at the time that he’d carried out repairs to the rear braking system of the vehicle and he admitted that he was not a time-served or qualified mechanic.

“Police tested the vehicle’s brakes and noted that the parking brake didn’t operate on either of the rear wheels of the vehicle.”

Davie, 62, was originally charged with dangerous driving following the incident on 16 September 2016 but subsequently pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of careless driving.

Craig Scott, defending, said the best thing that could be said about the incident was that Davie had been properly insured and his insurance company had settled the damages claim.

He said: “What’s happened is the brake has – as far as Mr Davie is concerned – been working. He just wasn’t convinced it was working as well as might be expected.

“He gets out of his car to do a delivery while it is parked on the slope, a momentary poor decision. The charge reflects the aftermath of that poor decision.

“He knew there had been difficulty with the brake and that he’d fixed it up in order to be operative, but he accepted that it didn’t feel ‘brand new’.

“I think that’s the decision which makes it criminal by getting out of the car. There’s no suggestion this was a deliberate crime.

“On one view he is fortunate that no-one was injured. On another view he’s been unfortunate that it hit the house and not a tree or something like that.”

Sheriff Douglas Kinloch fined Davie £400 and added five penalty points to the six which were on his licence at the time of the offence, meaning he was not banned from driving under ‘totting up’ rules.

He told Davie: “It seems to me that you were indeed careless. Although you put the handbrake on you should have taken more care to check that the handbrake would hold the car on the slope.

“In my view that was not gross carelessness, it was relatively minor carelessness – although it unfortunately led to about £34,000 worth of damage.”

He added: “I should stress that I can’t impose a prison sentence or an alternative to a prison sentence for this charge, I can only impose a fine.

“The real question for me is whether you should be disqualified from driving and I’ve come to the conclusion that to disqualify you would be too harsh, even though the consequences of these circumstances were very serious.”

He allowed Davie, who is unemployed and on benefits, to pay the fine at GBP50 a month. Davie made no comment as he left court.

Mrs Hull said she’d had sleepless nights and stress as a result of the incident because the family had had to have a new kitchen fitted a matter of weeks before her daughter’s wedding day.

She said: “It wasn’t a pleasant experience. It’s cost us a lot of money for things like the insurance excess and the new kitchen so we’ll have to think what to do about compensation for that.”