SCOTLAND’s first female chief constable caused a horror road smash which left her and another driver in hospital, a sheriff found today.
Norma Graham who retired last August, was found guilty of careless driving, fined £400, and had seven penalty points endorsed on her licence, which already bore three points from a
subsequent minor infringement
The conviction came at Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court in Fife, in the heart of her former domain.
Sheriff Grant McCulloch said that he rejected Graham’s claim that her car itself had caused the crash.
He said: “I do not accept the accused’s evidence that her car would not let her steer to the left. No deficiencies were found. Either she was not braking hard enough or her speed was such that hard braking would not be sufficient.
“The force of the impact showed that her driving did fall below that of a careful and considerate driver.”
During a trial that lasted two days, the court head the accident occurred when Graham, 49, was driving on a back road, the B922, towards Glenrothes, where the old Fife Constabulary was based, at
around 8am on February 7th last year.
She veered onto the wrong side and her 1.3 tonne Audi Quattro crashed into a Renault Clio, being driven by 25 year old Hannah Shedden, writing the Clio off, and leaving Miss Shedden with a broken
collarbone and injured knee.
Witnesses described an “incredible collision”, which left smoke billowing from both cars.
Graham, in evidence, claimed her car had “locked itself into position” and defied her best attempts to steer it to safety.
She said she had been doing no more than 45 miles an hour.
She said: “I had just rounded the bend that leads off to Thornton. I would have been going at a very reasonable speed.
“As I was heading towards a slight rise in the road I was very, very conscious of the car.
“It just seemed to lose traction.
“It seemed to become destabilised. It was as if the vehicle had locked itself in position, and I was trying to attempt to steer.
“It felt to me like the vehicle pulled to the left. I was on a right bend, and I tried to correct that. Then the car seemed to shoot off
onto the other side of the road. There was nothing I could have done at the time. I drove to the best of the conditions. I tried to take the course of action which would correct the vehicle. There was nothing I though I could do.”
She added: “I have to say that if I had any doubt that I, or anyone, could have prevented this, then I would not have brought myself into this, or put my family and colleagues through this, or wasted court time, unless I was sure I had done everything I could in the circumstances.
“The whole thing seemed to take about three to four seconds.
“I responded as quick as I could, as it was a frightening situation. I did not linger or delay.
“I felt awful that Ms Shedden had to give evidence. I was concerned about her at the time of the accident. She was just driving down the road and my vehicle has struck her vehicle. There’s no doubt about that.”
Miss Graham said that she herself had suffered “a severe head wound” in the crash.
Earlier, Miss Shedden had broken down in tears as prosecutor Adrian Cottam showed her a picture of her car following the accident and asked her to explain what happened.
Miss Shedden, a physiotherapist, who was on her way to work in Falkirk, said: “I saw a car heading towards me so I hit my brakes.
“The car was on my side of the road and it was heading straight towards me.
“I remember going through in my head I could either keep straight, steer into the other side of the road, or into a stone wall, so I kept straight, then we collided.
“After I thought ‘S**t, I need to get out the car’.
“My engine was hissing I wanted to get out, someone came and helped me, then I got medical assistance and was taken to hospital”.
She spent three days in hospital, required surgery on her knee, and had to take four months off work to recover.
A witness to the crash, Graham Campbell, 49, said: “It was an incredible impact, the Renault was up on its nose then came back again and there was a lot of smoke. It was very dramatic”.
A crash investigator found the accident happened due to “an unknown driving error” by the former top cop.
Graham, of Dalkeith, Midlothian, who pleaded not guilty, was thought to be the first serving chief constable in Scotland had appeared in court as an accused when she was first summoned.