Justice in Scotland is in the midst of major transformation but one thing remained a constant in 2021 – the presence of our reporters in the courts of Tayside and Fife.
The crime and courts team has covered complex investigations and prosecutions as well as highlighting the remarkable courage shown by victims of crime.
As the year draws to a close, we look back at significant cases heard at sheriff courts in both Kirkcaldy and Dunfermline.
It has been our privilege to be the eyes and ears of the public in these courts.
So grab a cuppa, hit the links and lose yourselves in our world.
The issue of animal abuse and dangerous dogs is an emotive one and always gets debate raging among our readers.
Allan Petrie admitted drowning his 10-year-old Golden retriever in a bath and sending a horrific photo of the aftermath to his ex-partner.
The 47-year-old is yet to be sentenced after a number of issues caused repeated delays of the case at Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court.
However he admitted that between November 8 and 17 last year, he caused unnecessary suffering to his dog Jack, submerging the dog’s head in water and drowning it.
Petrie carried out the heinous act at his home address in White Avenue in Leven.
Robert Dalton’s staffie ripped apart a small dog as children made their way to school.
The powerful dog had slipped its harness prior to the attack.
Neighbours were forced to cover Papillion Piper’s body with a t-shirt to prevent children from seeing the bloodbath.
Dalton, 76, admitted having a dangerously out of control dog in Dunfermline’s Harris Place on January 29, 2019.
The dog was spared a death sentence but Dalton was ordered to keep it on a lead and muzzled at all times.
Rogues and robbers
Unfortunately, violent crime has featured a lot in our reporting, with some taking it to extremes.
Hapless thief Kieran Pearson was marched from the Spar store in Dunfermline’s Townhill Road at the point of his own “gun” after attempting to rob the shop.
Zaheer Uddin Babar turned the tables on him by grabbing the weapon.
Several months later he teamed up with Craig Pritchard to stage a robbery at a petrol station on the town’s Bothwell Street.
Police later discovered the gun was fake but found other items in Pearson’s home implicating him in the attempted robbery.
At Edinburgh’s High Court Pearson was jailed for 64 months, while Pritchard was imprisoned for four years.
Fife carer Kathleen MacKay did not use violence to get her hands on cash but her crimes were no less insidious.
The 68-year-old was jailed for embezzling “a large sum of money” from an 83-year-old with dementia for whom she held bank account details.
Her victim’s son had noticed a series of withdrawals from her account of up to £500 each time.
A co-worker told the trial MacKay had spent lavishly and MacKay had told her the money came from a lottery win.
She was jailed for 18 months.
38-year-old Alistair Lindsay cost his girlfriend her eye when he smashed a pint glass into her face.
The group were drinking in Dunfermline’s East Port Bar but the evening ended when she poured a drink over Lindsay and he retaliated by lunging at her with a full pint glass in his hand.
His defence agent said Lindsay had intended to pour the contents of his glass over Ms Sutherland.
Lindsay, of Pittencrieff Street, Dunfermline, admitted assaulting Ms Sutherland to her severe injury, permanent disfigurement and impairment and to the danger of her life on April 21 2019.
He was jailed for 27 months.
Shan Marshall from Cardenden woman went on trial for biting another woman’s ear off during a round-the-clock party.
Marshall had denied attacking her victim at a property in the town’s Hyndloup Terrace in October 2019.
But the majority of jurors agreed she had assaulted Ms Mitchell, seized her by the body, repeatedly punched her on the head and bit her on the ear, causing a piece of flesh to detach.
She was ultimately jailed for 18 months for the attack.
A teenage girl was warned she could have killed a schoolgirl after stamping on her head because she disliked her “goth” style.
The 16-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had earlier made Facebook threats against her victim.
The attack was condemned by The Sophie Lancaster Foundation, which was named after a woman murdered in a similar attack in Bacup, Lancashire, in 2007.
There seems no limits to the lunacy people will get up to on the roads.
Wedding singer Johnathon Collins caused a head-on collision with a minibus after driving home drunk from a gig.
The 36-year-old claimed he had swerved to avoid a fox in the early hours of the morning, near Cairneyhill, in June 2019.
It left one of the four people in the minibus in intensive care for a week.
Collins, of East Kilbride, admitted dangerous and drink-driving
He was jailed for two years and banned from the roads for four years.
67-year-old Catherine Dryburgh caused a head-on collision on one of Fife’s most notorious roads after attempting to overtake an HGV.
Despite admitting driving carelessly on the Standing Stane Road on October 7, 2020, she was allowed to keep her licence.
Dashcam footage from the HGV showed the moment he drove into a white van being driven by William Ritchie.
Instead Dryburgh, of Glendale in Leven, was fined £640 and handed six points.
Her solicitor told Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court that a driving ban would put her work as a Covid-19 tester in jeopardy.
Robert Bell was at the wheel of a 44-tonne HGV when it slammed into a car near Kirkcaldy in June 2019.
The crash caused the closure of the A92 for several hours and Bell, of Falkirk, was mistakenly led to believe the woman in the car had been killed.
He wept as he narrowly escaped a jail sentence but was banned from driving for four years and placed on an overnight curfew for nine months.
Christopher Cahill‘s driving offence owed a lot to idiocy.
Cahill, from Lumphinnans, abused the warden and made the offensive gesture but as he pulled away he bumped into another vehicle on New Row in Dunfermline and then fled the scene.
Paedophiles and perverts
Exposing the perpetrators of the sick abuse of children continues to be one of the most important -if distressing – aspects of our work, especially as online activity continues to increase.
21-year-old Logan Chapman was caught with thousands of child abuse images and claimed he was “researching” in order to snare other paedophiles.
Search terms such as “Lolita” had been used to find the images, and when his home was raided by police he was found to have nearly 2,000 Category A images – the worst kind – on his computer.
Chapman, of Allan Park, Hill of Beath, was placed under supervision for three years.
Former lorry driver Gary Hempseed was jailed after being convicted of sexually assaulting three teenagers.
His abuse included placing another man’s hand it on one girl’s private parts in a hot tub.
Hempseed told Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court the encounters were consensual but he was sentenced to a total of four and a half years behind bars and placed on the Sex Offenders Register for life.
A sexual offences prevention order was issued, banning him from ever contacting any of the victims.
Paedophile Kirk Thompson was exposed as a racist after messages to international footballer Yannick Bolasie were found when his phone was searched for abuse images.
He sent the message to the then-Everton winger privately on Instagram.
Democratic Republic of the Congo star Mr Bolasie screenshotted the abuse and shared it on his Twitter account.
At Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court, Thompson pled guilty to sending the bigoted message on March 9. He was also found with a haul of child abuse images.
He will be sentenced in January.
Former teacher Robert Jennings was ordered to pay compensation to a woman he abused when she was just 10.
The 68-year-old was convicted of historic misconduct towards the girl on an occasion in the late 1980s.
The incident – which his solicitor described as a “one-off” – took place at a school for children with additional support needs.
The 66-year-old was placed on a curfew for nine months and ordered to pay the woman £2,000.
And the rest of the madness
The best bit of court reporting is when things take a turn for the bizarre….
Motorist Steve Higginson tried to cite the Magna Carta in a bid to get off with charges of driving without an MOT or insurance.
Higginson, 56, of Thornhill Drive, Kirkcaldy, claimed he did not need the driving documents.
Representing himself, Higginson handed a sheriff a stack of papers referring to the Magna Carta, and Australian and Canadian law.
However, Sheriff Alastair Brown dismissed that submission and found Higginson guilty, telling him: “Whoever drafted this does not have the slightest understanding of this or any other system of law.”
The word knobkerrie came into the Fife criminal lexicon when would-be housebreaker Craig Pritchard was foiled by a swift dunt on the head by the traditional South African club.
Balaclava-clad Pritchard got more than he bargained for when he barged into the home of James and Gaynor Hynd-Hill in Dunfermline, wearing all black and clutching a black-bladed hunting knife.
Gaynor grabbed the ornamental knobkerrie and handed it to James, who used it to batter the hapless crook, who fled empty-handed.
She said the failed robber clearly “wasn’t the sharpest pencil in the box”.
He was sentenced to 45 months in prison.
Registered nurse Iain MacDonald was caught drinking strong liquid painkillers intended for patients after colleagues found phlegm floating in the bottles.
Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court heard he was helping himself to the stocks of Oxycodone Hydrochloride and Oramorph at Preston House care home in Glenrothes.
The controlled drugs were kept in a special locked cabinet, for which MacDonald had a key.
An investigation uncovered his DNA on the bottles.
His lawyer said he had been self-medicating for pain.
Neil Cowan, a care home worker blamed both loose trousers and Covid-19 stress after being caught pleasuring himself near Dunfermline’s Amazon depot.
He was spotted on two separate occasions – the first time by a delivery driver at 2.20am on June 16 and just four days later by a man leaving the Amazon Warehouse on Sandpiper Drive at 3.30am.
When charged he replied: ‘My trousers are loose fitting and they may have fallen down. I’m sorry’.
His defence solicitor said Cowan, of Cocklaw Street, Kelty, considered such acts to be “relief” in “times of stress”.
He said Cowan’s place of work had lost several residents in the health crisis.
Kirkcaldy’s Judy McMahon stole a massive bouquet of roses and was caught out after boasting about it on Facebook.
The £100 bouquet was intended as an anniversary present for a neighbour.
The 44-year-old later had a showdown in the communal stairwell with the neighbours over the theft.
Sheriff Richard McFarlane ordered her to pay £100 in compensation and admonished her.
Fife charity shop manager Peter Martini-Yates was paced on the Sex Offenders Register after trying to lick one customer’s hand, then saying: “Let’s see your willy”.
As the customer fled the shop in Dunfermline, Martini-Yates called after him: “No sex, then?”
He later showed another man a pornographic video while the pair were in the basement of a different charity shop.
“Flamboyant” Martini-Yates was jailed for two years and will remain on the register for a decade.
Chinese takeaway chef Bin Wang swung a shovel at a man who confronted him for harvesting razor clams at Fife beauty spot Pettycur Bay.
Locals feared the spot was being targeted by criminal gangs looking to capitalise on the illicit and highly-lucrative trade in shellfish.
Wang was digging at the site on May 2020 when he was taken to task.
He was fined £270 at Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court after pleading guilty to behaving in a threatening and abusive manner.
Quite the year all round.
The full caseload of the Dundee Crime and Courts Team can be found here.