THE trial of a man accused of falling asleep at the wheel and causing a fatal car crash has been abandoned - because he could not stay awake in the dock.
A judge was told that Adam Docherty appeared to have a condition, believed to be linked to a brain injury, which caused him to persistently drop off when not in a one-to-one conversation.
Lord Matthews ruled at the High Court in Edinburgh that Docherty, 26, was not fit to participate properly in the proceedings against him, and that the case should be deserted. He left it open to the Crown to bring a fresh prosecution if it were deemed appropriate after further medical testing of the accused.
Docherty, of Kennoway, Fife, was charged with causing the death of George Izatt, 54, of Methil, Fife, by dangerous driving on the A92 Glenrothes-Dundee road on 22 August, 2010.
It was alleged that, knowing he had been deprived of adequate sleep or rest for 22 hours, he drove while unfit due to tiredness, and fell asleep. His car collided with an oncoming vehicle being driven by Mr Izatt who died from his injuries. Docherty and four passengers in the two cars were severely injured.
A jury was sworn in for a trial at the High Court in Edinburgh but even before any evidence was led, it was noted that Docherty was having great difficulty in staying awake.
His counsel, Frances Connor, said there had been a divergence of medical opinion pre-trial, with some experts suggesting Docherty was unfit to stand trial, and others believing he would cope with regular breaks. She said he was still awaiting surgery for physical injuries sustained in the accident and was on heavy medication. His condition appeared to have deteriorated in recent days.
The trial was adjourned to allow a psychologist to assess Docherty. He reported that Docherty seemed to be fine in a one-to-one situation, but his attempts to follow anything more complex caused him to lose consciousness.
“His opinion is that when Mr Docherty appears to lose consciousness he is ‘not in receipt of information’. He is, in fact, going into a form of sleep. (The psychologist) links this to a brain injury which is exacerbated by the court conditions. He does not anticipate it will improve in the course of a trial and may, in fact, worsen,” added Ms Connor.
The advocate-depute, Jonathan Brodie, QC, said Docherty was not able effectively to participate in the trial, and he asked that it be deserted in the meantime.
Mr Brodie added that the Crown wanted to have experts in appropriate disciplines to report on Docherty’s condition with a view to establishing if he would be fit for a trial in the future.
Jurors had been kept in the dark about what had been happening, but they returned to be told by Lord Matthews that various medical investigations had proved necessary.
“Some of you may have noticed that Mr Docherty had difficulty staying awake, and other investigations are going to be required. The result is that this trial cannot go ahead at the moment,” said the judge.