Canna woman admits driving on rocky beach after drinking

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A 56-year-old Canna woman, who has driven without a licence or insurance all of her adult life, admitted to driving off-road on the island’s shorefront after a lunchtime drinking session.

Passengers waiting to board the ferry from Canna Pier on Friday October 5 2018 watched as Jessica Winnifred MacKinnon veered off the only road on the island onto the rocky beach as she attempted to give her elderly mother a lift to the pier.

MacKinnon, who has lived on Canna all her life and now resides on the adjoining Sanday island, appeared at Fort William Sheriff Court on Tuesday where she pleaded guilty to one charge of driving while unfit through drink or drugs and another charge of driving without insurance.

The court heard that on the afternoon of October 5 MacKinnon was called by her house-bound mother, who lives nearby on Canna, requesting a lift. MacKinnon, who had been drinking around lunchtime, agreed to pick her mother up and made her way along the island’s rough single-track road.

With both of them now in the car, MacKinnon attempted a three-point turn just outside her mother’s house but ended up coming off the road and driving down on to the shore. Although she continued to drive along the rocky shore, the vehicle eventually came to a standstill after its wheels began spinning and smoke started coming out of it.

Procurator Fiscal Martina Eastwood told the court ferry passengers and the harbour master ran over to assist. MacKinnon was said to have been visibly intoxicated, slurring her words and stumbling as she got out of the car.

The harbour master took the keys off MacKinnon and helped her mother out of the car before returning the keys to MacKinnon. She got into the vehicle, drove back along the shore, up one of the slipways and back onto road.

Defence solicitor Hamish Melrose told the court: ‘On Canna you only need to hold a provisional licence to drive and only have to have third party fire and theft insurance cover. MacKinnon did not have either of these things.’

Sheriff Eilidh MacDonald asked why she did not have these, to which Mr Melrose replied: ‘It seems to be quite normal on Canna.’

MacKinnon’s mother was airlifted to Belford Hospital, Fort William, after the incident. Mr Melrose said that this was ‘a purely precautionary measure’ and she was discharged from hospital soon after her arrival.

In sentencing, Sheriff MacDonald told MacKinnon: ‘Your behaviour was very alarming and particularly difficult, I’m sure, for your mother.’

MacKinnon was fined a total of £600 for both charges and disqualified from driving for a year.