Former Hawick Community Council chairwoman Marion Short has been fined £300 after being convicted of a road-rage offence.
Short, also vice-chairperson of the Campaign for Borders Rail, was found guilty of careless driving following a trial lasting three days.
Jedburgh Justice of the Peace Court heard how the 67-year-old was seen gesturing aggressively towards another motorist she was trying to overtake on the B6358 Dunion road near Jedburgh on December 7, 2017.
When she did manage to overtake on a straight stretch of the route, she pulled in excessively quickly afterwards, not allowing adequate space between her car and the vehicle she’d just got past, causing them to collide and sustain damage.
Short enied that had happened despite the evidence of the other motorist and a van driver following her.
She also claimed police officers failed to caution her properly when they visited her home five days later and charged her with careless driving.
However, her conduct in the witness box came in for criticism from depute fiscal Tessa Bradley, and she accused Short of offering a “slapdash picture” of events that day at odds with the account given by the crown’s witnesses.
During her summing-up, the fiscal said: “She did not present to the court as listening carefully to questions put to her in cross-examination.
“Instead she sought to recite the story she came to court to tell.
“During cross-examination, she had to be asked twice to listen to the questions and stop interrupting.”
Ms Bradley highlighted how Short had changed her account after saying a police officer had told her the damage to her car was substantial but during cross-examination accepted he did not say that.
She continued: “The most generous inference that can be drawn about the events is that she was so busy asking 20,000 questions that she did not listen properly.
“That was the approach she took during cross-examination.
“She gave an entirely different account of what happened.
“She insisted she was only driving up the hill in either first or second gear, which is unrealistic.
“She was not able to give any explanation for the account given by the two crown witnesses.
“Her position is that they came into the court and made it all up.”
Ms Bradley said that Short told the court the journey had been uneventful but that was in contrast to the evidence given by the prosecution’s witnesses.
The trial had earlier heard evidence that that Short’s Mini Couper was tailgating a Volkswagen Polo driven by Jacqueline Sargent, then when she overtook it, pulled in excessively quickly.
Mrs Sargent, 58, who lives near Hawick, said she’d been heading to a meeting in Jedburgh and had turned off the A698 Hawick-Tweedmouth route onto the Dunion road.
She explained how she quickly became aware of a cream-coloured Mini vehicle coming up behind her.
Mrs Sargent said: “It was tailgating. It was very close to the back of my car.
“I could see the driver in silhouette. They seemed frustrated, throwing their arms around and making gestures.
“The person seemed angry, and I was trying to find somewhere to pull in and let them pass because I thought it was dangerous, but it was a windy road and I could not at that stage.
“I eventually got onto the straight and the Mini tried to overtake, but it came in too quickly and clipped my car.
“I had wanted her to pass me so I held my speed allowing her to pass, but as her car overtook, I felt an impact and was quite shocked.
“I assumed the car would stop, but it sped off.”
Mrs Sargent described how she flashed her lights at the Mini as she tried to follow it, but it did not stop.
She was then overtaken by a white Mercedes van and all three vehicles continued on their journeys into Jedburgh.
Mrs Sargent said she was angry that the Mini had not stopped as she had been flashing her lights, and when they arrived in Jedburgh the Mini turned off to the left and the the van pulled over to the side of the road.
She said she then approached the van driver and asked if he had witnessed what happened, and he told her he had and had, furthermore, noted the Mini’s registration number.
Mrs Sargent got the man’s name and telephone number and then reported the incident to Jedburgh police station.
Asked by Ms Bradley to sum up the accused’s driving, she answered “erratic”.
She also told the court a dent had been left above the wheel arch on the bodywork of her car and it would cost £540 to repair.
Her version of events was corroborated by the medical supplies delivery driver behind the wheel of the Mercedes van involved, Matthew Elder.
Mr Elder, 62, of East Kilbride in South Lanarkshire, said: “It seemed to me the Mini was tailgating the car in front. It was driving very close to the bumper.”
Mr Elder said Short seemed “very irate” and was “waving her arms, urging the driver in front to go quicker”.
He said he thought the Volkswagen Polo was driving to the speed limit and rejected a suggestion from defence lawyer Ed Hulme that it was going at between 10mph and 15 mph.
Mr Elder said he had witnessed the incident from an elevated position in his van and insisted “100%” that there was contact between the two vehicles.
He described it as a road-rage incident, adding:”I would not like that car behind me. The driving was erratic.”
Both witnesses said Short’s vehicle had only clipped Mrs Sargent’s car and Ms Bradley said she accepted it was just a minor collision.
Summing up for the defence, Mr Hulme highlighted anomalies in the evidence given by the crown witnesses, particularly regarding the timing of the alleged incident, with Mrs Sargent saying it happened at around 1.30pm and Mr Elder 9.30am.
He added: “The accused and the defence witnesses could not have done more to assist the case by giving a full and frank account.”
Mr Hulme said his client admitted she made a gesture but that was directed towards the van driver she claimed was tailgaiting her and that she was surprised when police arrived at her home five days later and told her there had been a collision.
He concluded that the lack of damage to Mini and his client’s insistence there had been no collision meant a verdict of not guilty or not proven should be returned.
JP John Jeffrey found Short, of Heronhill Bank, Hawick, not guilty of failing to stop after an accident and of failing to report an accident to the police within 24 hours.
However, he convicted her of the careless driving offence and imposed a fine of £300 and endorsed her driving licence with five penalty points.