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HMA v Garry Tierney


Oct 5, 2022

At the High Court in Edinburgh, Lord Arthurson sentenced Garry Tierney to four years' imprisonment after he pled guilty to causing death by dangerous driving and causing serious injury by dangerous driving. Mr Tierney was also disqualified from driving for a period of 7 years.


On sentencing, Lord Arthurson said:

"Garry Tierney, on 23 August 2022 at the High Court in Glasgow you tendered a plea of guilty by way of section 76 procedure to a single charge indictment libelling contraventions by you of sections 1 and 1A of the Road Traffic Act 1988. On 7 October 2020 at about 11.00am on the A939 Nairn to Ballater public road at Dava Moor, Morayshire, you drove an articulated lorry and trailer combination on the wrong side of the road thereby causing that lorry to collide head on with a motor car driven by Matthew Donnell, then aged 86, who was accompanied in the car by his wife Edith Donnell, then aged 81, thereby causing the death of Mr Donnell and severe injury to Mrs Donnell.

"By your dangerous driving, Mr Donnell sustained a non‑survivable head injury and a severe injury to his chest. Mrs Donnell sustained multiple fractures to her ribs, spine and sternum, together with scalp lacerations.  Despite an initially poor prognosis, Mrs Donnell has thankfully recovered from these injuries.  Mr Donnell was, however, her main carer, and as a result of his death she has now been admitted to a residential care home. Her life has accordingly been forever changed due to your criminal conduct.

"You have pled guilty to this indictment at the earliest opportunity.  You have one non‑analogous previous conviction which was incurred in 2011 at Justice of the Peace Court level and resulted in a financial penalty.  To all extents and purposes then you come before the court as, in terms, a first offender.  You have an unblemished employment record. You have a supportive family. You have expressed appropriate remorse and have recognised that with your guilty plea comes an inevitable custodial sentence.  

"I have listened with care to the submissions advanced on your behalf this morning in mitigation and considered with equal care the detailed content of the criminal justice social work report prepared in respect of you for this sentencing hearing.  This offence comprised a single dangerous manoeuvre whereby you, having lost concentration, crossed into the opposing carriageway causing a catastrophic fatal collision. You are a low-risk offender who has taken full responsibility for your criminal conduct in this tragic case.  It is also of note that you sought to render assistance at the scene of the collision. I should add that I have also read a number of character references which have been tendered to the court on your behalf. These are all doubtless well-intentioned but have little if any relevance as a pertinent sentencing consideration.

"In this case of course the court must sentence you not only for causing the death of Mr Donnell but also for causing severe injury to Mrs Donnell.  Having regard to the whole information available, I conclude that a significant custodial disposal is required.  That said, the mitigatory factors arising, all as previously listed, are of considerable relevance to the sentencing exercise undertaken by the court.  In all of these circumstances you will accordingly serve on this indictment a sentence of 4 years' imprisonment.  But for the timing of your early plea, that custodial tariff would have been one of 6 years.  This sentence will be backdated to the date of your plea of guilty and initial remand in this matter, namely 23 August 2022.

"Finally, you will in addition be disqualified from driving for a period of 7 years, being a period of 5 years plus a period of 2 years, representing one‑half of the custodial disposal imposed today.  At the conclusion of that disqualification period, you will require to sit an extended test of driving competence before you can apply for any future licence."