At Random with Martin Laing

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Sentence far too lenient

Christopher Taylor has been sentenced to carry out 300 hours of unpaid work for a crime he committed.

What was his offence? Something reasonably anodyne, you might think.
But no. He was convicted of causing death by careless driving – a charge reduced from causing death by dangerous driving.

The 30-year-old carried out a desperate overtaking manoeuvre on a ‘twisty and windy’ section of the road between Oban and Lochgilphead that resulted in a head-on collision which caused the death of Kilninver woman Yvonne Shann, 56.

Mrs Shann did nothing wrong and was driving carefully, points recognised by the judge who sentenced Taylor at the High Court in Glasgow last week.
With no thought for the dangers and very real consequences, Taylor put lives in peril with the way he drove. And he killed Yvonne.

The judge said he was ‘satisfied that your remorse is genuine’.
However, that doesn’t wash with me. Yvonne Shann’s husband, Andrew, and family are left with an unbridgeable gulf in their lives that was caused by Taylor.

I have spoken to Andrew Shann on a few occasions and fully understand why he is ‘disgusted’ with the leniency of the sentence imposed on Taylor.

As we report elsewhere this week, he said: ‘I am just disgusted. It’s just ridiculous. He has gone from being charged with death by dangerous driving to death by careless driving to getting community service. The law is an ass.

It’s just unbelievable. The thing is, there’s nothing you can do about it.’
From our conversations, I can tell Andrew is a measured man not prone to outbursts. If anything, his words are understated.

I don’t know what you have to do to receive a jail term these days if killing someone by ‘careless’ driving is not sufficient.

I sincerely hope someone in the Crown Office asks for a review of the sentence in this case. It simply does not reflect the Shann family’s suffering.

Wake-up call for fish farms

The Scottish Government’s environment, climate change and land reform committee has warned the planned expansion of salmon farming over the next 10 to 15 years, aiming to grow the industry by 300,000 to 400,000 tonnes, is unsustainable and could, unless there are changes, cause ‘irrecoverable damage’.

It was a point barely contested by the major companies running the many fish farms in Argyll and the Isles and Lochaber.

Steve Bracken, business support manager for Marine Harvest said: ‘We are disappointed at some of the findings but are currently reviewing it and will respond to the committee in detail in the near future.’

It is a contentious issue that is extremely concerning for our area.
Whether you support the sector or oppose it, the reality is it is of crucial importance to the economy of Argyll, the Isles and Lochaber, employing as it does thousands of people and supplying a seemingly ever-increasing demand for its products, including a booming export market.

If nothing else, this report should serve as a much-needed reminder that businesses and government need to ensure the highest protection of our marine environment if we want to benefit from its rich resources.
It is, as I said, vital to our area but that does not put companies beyond criticism.

Welcome to Argyll

Margi Campbell is moving from the south-west of England to take up a new post as Provost of St John’s Cathedral in Oban.

Rev Campbell takes up her new post in May and will also be Rector of St James’ Ardbrecknish.

I hope she and her husband are very happy here. They are moving to arguably the most splendid part of the country.

What do you think?

Write to me at or The Oban Times, Crannog Lane, Oban, PA34 4 HB.