The head of a road safety campaign has called for tougher action on those who flout the law after a banned driver, caught behind the wheel three times in as many weeks, dodged a spell behind bars.
James Morris – who has never held a full licence – drove while disqualified because he couldn’t get public transport to shifts at a job in Arbroath.
But despite being collared on November 17 last year, he was caught again twice after police were called in to investigate a report of him failing to pay for £10 of fuel at a Forfar garage a few weeks later.
At Forfar Sheriff Court the former Scots Guardsman was slammed by a sheriff for his “complete disobedience” of traffic laws, but was told sentencing powers only permitted a short-term sentence which would not reflect the seriousness of the crimes.
The decision meant Morris could celebrate his 26th birthday on Friday at liberty, but he must complete 210 hours of unpaid work and has been warned that any repeat is likely to land him in prison.
And the head of a road safety campaign has called for tougher action on those who flout the law after Morris dodged jail.
Responding to the case Joshua Harris, director of campaigns at Brake, said: “Those who flout the law must be dealt with severely and repeat offenders must be a particular target for action.”
Morris, of Threewells Place, Forfar previously admitted driving whilst disqualified and without insurance on November 17, November 28 and December 8 last year, and stealing a quantity of fuel from a filling station in Queenswell Road, Forfar.
Depute fiscal Stewart Duncan said that in the first incident, police in a marked car saw the accused driving around 1pm and suspected he didn’t have a licence. Morris was traced the following day and charged with driving while disqualified.
The following offences happened after he bought fuel but went into the filling station and said he couldn’t pay. He signed a letter of intent to return with the £10, but failed to do so, and when CCTV was reviewed he was seen driving.
Defence solicitor Nick Markowski said: “The money’s been paid now, but he didn’t go back.
“He is turning 26 and hopes to do that at liberty, but he knows that it is very much at risk.”
The solicitor told the court Morris was a ceremonial piper in the Scots Guards, who had travelled the world for four years after joining up at 16 before he was medically discharged.
“He has a good work ethic but at the time he was working anti-social hours and was driving to get to that,” he said.
“He acknowledges his behaviour is reckless over that period and he apologises to the court.”
Sheriff Derek Reekie noted Morris had only ever held a provisional licence and at the time of the offences was subject to an 18-month ban imposed in May last year.
“The police stopped you the first time and you knew you were on notice, but you deliberately chose to do it,” he said.
“Your record suggests a history of complete disobedience of traffic laws and a custodial sentence is very much at the forefront of my mind, but my sentencing options are limited to a six-month period.
“It seems more meaningful to impose an unpaid work order at the upper end, but I make it absolutely clear to you that this is a direct alternative to custody.”
Morris must complete the 210 hours within one year and was also banned from driving for two years.