Penicuik man jailed for stealing bus after missing his stop

Galashiels transport interchange.
Galashiels transport interchange.

A drugged-up driver stole a public service vehicle in a desperate attempt to get home after falling asleep on a bus journey late at night.

Simon Ness – who was already banned from the road – led police on a four-mile pursuit along a narrow country road, driving at excessive speeds, striking verges and fences and with sparks flying from the rear as the bus undercarriage dragged along the road surface.

Two police stingers were put into operation, puncturing the tyres before the 33-year-old finally lost control of the bus.

At Selkirk Sheriff Court Ness of Penicuik, Midlothian, was jailed for 18 months and disqualified from driving for eight years after pleading guilty to a series of motoring offences on February 26 and 27.

He admitted stealing a bus from Galashiels Interchange, driving while under the influence of drugs, dangerous driving, driving while disqualified and with no insurance.

Procurator fiscal Graham Fraser described how Ness had been in Edinburgh and got a bus home to Penicuik, but fell asleep and was woken up by the driver at the end of the journey in Galashiels around midnight.

There was no late transport home and he had already breached his night-time curfew as he was supposed to have been home at 10pm.

Mr Fraser said: “It was the end of February and he felt cold, and he decided to sleep on a different bus parked at the stance at the Transport Interchange.

“He pressed the button to allow him onto the bus and it worked. He then made the foolish decision to drive and pressed the button to start the bus which meant no keys were required.”

Mr Fraser said several witnesses including an ambulance and also an off-duty police officer noted the bus being driven erratically with its hazard lights on along the A72 road from Galashiels, before turning onto a narrow country road at Innerleithen heading for Heriot. A stinger device team from Dalkeith were deployed as Ness continued driving at excessive speed pursued by police and refusing to stop.

Mr Fraser said: “After four miles driving with a puncture he lost control and collided with fencing just 300 yards short of the turn off to the A7 so he had gone a significance distance on a road which was unsuitable for a bus in the first place.

“Police officers noted he had slurred speech and large pupils in his eyes. There were needles and syringes in the footwell of the bus and an unopened can of lager.

“It is fortunate no other drivers were involved in this or anyone got injured.

“He was clearly intoxicated and should not have been driving anything, let alone a bus.”

The court was told that when Ness ultimately lost control of the bus, he caused £5,500 worth of damage to fencing and walls according to the farmer where the crash happened.

Defence lawyer Stuart Carson said his client was anxious to get home as he was subject to a night-time curfew after missing his stop.

He admitted his client was under the influence of Zamox at the time.

Mr Carson also accepted a custodial sentence was inevitable.

Sheriff Peter Paterson said it was at the extreme end for dangerous driving.

He back-dated the prison sentence to February 26 when Ness was first taken into custody.