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A SCOTTISH procurator fiscal caught drunk behind the wheel after she drank a quarter bottle of vodka was acquitted by a sheriff yesterday.
Anne Hart, 38, was found by police slumped at the wheel of her BMW earlier this year.
Her car was blocking traffic as she sat and drank the vodka after being thrown out of the marital home by her husband hours earlier.
Yesterday she admitted being in charge of a vehicle while over the drink drive limit.
But her solicitor, Jim Williamson, successfully argued she had not intended to drive, and had placed the car keys in the passenger side footwell as a precaution.
Mum-of-two Hart told Arbroath Sheriff Court that her private life was in turmoil at the time of the incident, which happened on Ferry Road, Monifieth, on January 12, 2009.
Her mother had died the year before, she had a cancer scare at the same time, and she was also going through a messy marriage break-up.
At the end of the trial, Sheriff Jamie Gilmour said: “I had to consider whether there was a likelihood that the accused was going to drive while still under the influence of alcohol. The defence case does cast a reasonable doubt on each of the circumstances.”
But the decision angered road safety campaigners.
Margaret Dekker, spokeswoman for the Scottish Campaign Against Irresponsible Driving (SCID), said: “This is an astonishing decision. Does this mean that everyone up on drink driving charges will use this excuse now? She has had plenty of time to think of her defence.
“It sends out the wrong message completely, especially as the drink driving figures have not gone down for a decade.
“What happens now when she prosecutes a drink driver? She will be very biased towards them, and I hope that she will never be allowed to do so.
“Of all people, she should have been aware of the devastating consequences of such actions. It is just fortunate that no one was injured or killed in this instance.”
Giving evidence during the trial, Hart, a senior prosecutor based at the procurator fiscal’s office in Dundee, said her husband had thrown her out of the marital home earlier in the day.
She said: “The relationship had broken down irretrievably. I visited my aunt and, afterwards, I purchased a quarter bottle of vodka and a bottle of coke, with the intention of going to my father's house because I had nowhere else to go.
“One of the reasons my marriage broke down was because of a relationship with another man, but I couldn't contact him.
“I stopped the car because I was crying so much, and I sat there in the car and drank the quarter bottle of vodka in a very short amount of time.
“I phoned my brother to come and pick me up because I was highly intoxicated and extremely distressed.
“I vaguely remember the police coming, and I said to the police ‘the keys are not in the ignition, they are on the floor. It's ok, I'm a fiscal'.
“I had no intention of driving. I am a procurator fiscal and I know the law.”
Depute fiscal Catriona Bryden asked Hart: “Why does a fiscal sit in a car and drink a quarter bottle of vodka?”
She replied: “I wanted to numb some of the pain.”
Hart's brother, Timothy Johnston, 31, gave evidence that his older sister had phoned him to come and pick her up.
He said: “I could tell by her voice that she'd had a drink. She told me that she was sitting in her car and asked me to come and get her.
“The next call I got from her, she was hysterical, crying, and not making much sense.
“By the time I got there, there was nobody in the car.”
In 2006, Hart was part of the prosecution team which put Britain's worst drink driver, John Williamson, behind bars and resulted in him being given nine life bans.
Courtesy of the Press and Journal