Stefanie Johnston Dual qualified commercial disputes Partner
Ince Scotland: Acquittal secured in marine prosecution - July 2022
Stefanie Johnston, dual-qualified Partner, led the team from Ince, assisted by Iain Franklin, Senior Associate, following a Scottish instruction to act on behalf of Mr. Steven Davie, who was being prosecuted for alleged breaches of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995and The International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea 1972 (“COLREGS”). The defence at trial was conducted by David Nicolson, advocate from Compass Chambers. Mr. Davie’s legal team successfully secured his acquittal at Inverness Sheriff Court.
The trial proceeded in respect of five charges arising out of three incidents which took place on 18 August 2018 in the waters near Eilean Donan castle. It was alleged that Mr. Davie had driven too close and too fast to two other vessels in the first incident and had failed to give way in the second incident. In the third incident, it was alleged that he had again passed too close to other vessels while there were persons in the water.
Captain Dominic Bell, Managing Master Mariner of Brookes Bell, was instructed as an expert witness on behalf of Mr. Davie. Mr. Bell stated that Mr. Davie’s seamanship for the first and third incidents did not fall below an appropriate standard. He had given other vessels sufficient room. As regards the persons in the water during the third incident, Mr. Bell indicated that a sufficiently visible flag to warn other vessels had not been displayed.
In relation to the second incident, Mr. Bell explained to the jury that Mr. Davie’s vessel was the “stand on” vessel under the COLREGS and, therefore, had right of way. It was the duty of the other vessel to give way. Mr. Davie gave evidence to the Court that he had reduced his speed and altered course to avoid a collision, when it became apparent that the “give-way” vessel had not acted appropriately.
Following the sheriff’s charge, the jury found Mr. Davie not guilty of all five charges in a little over an hour.
Stefanie Johnston from Ince commented:
“We are delighted with the outcome of this case. We are fortunate to have a team of Master Mariners at Ince that really add value for our clients, as well as the excellent input from our expert witness Dominic Bell from Brookes Bell."
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