A sheriff was lenient in imposing eight penalty points rather than disqualification for careless driving by "tailgating' the vehicle in front at motorway speed, the Sheriff Appeal Court has ruled.

Sheriff Principal Mhairi Stephn QC and Sheriff Paul Arthurson QC made the comment in refusing an appeal against sentence by Mark McInally, who had been charged with dangerous driving in this manner at the M90/M9 junction but whose plea of guilty to careless driving was accepted by the Crown at the trial diet. 

The sheriff described the driving as "ridiculous" in following the vehicle in front at only two or three metres on a motorway, and as involving a risk of a serious accident. On appeal it was argued that in the absence of other aggravating actors, it was at the lower end of the scale.

The court disagreed. "To drive in this manner is not momentary inattention or distraction but instead any driver who drives in this manner deliberately courts danger", Sheriff Principal Stephen said in delivering the opinion of the court. "The degree of culpability is high. There is a clear likelihood that a serious collision may occur with the associated risk that injury and damage is caused. The sheriff was fully justified in categorising this type of driving as being at the upper end of careless driving."

She continued: "This is aggressive and irresponsible driving. The sheriff was correct to consider disqualification. We are of the view that the court is entitled to impose a period of disqualification for this type of aggressive driving. Having categorised the appellant's driving to be at the very top end of the careless scale we consider that the sentence imposed of eight penalty points and a modest fine was lenient."

Click here to view the opinion of the court.