Breach of bail case found not proven

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The case against a man accused of breaching bail conditions and communicating with an Oban councillor has been found not proven.

Kenneth McLennan, of Cadderlie, Crannaig-a-Mhinister, Pulpit Hill, Oban, was given 12 months to be of good behavior in April for making a sexual gesture at Julie McKenzie while she was a witness in court.

The 70-year-old was given strict conditions not to approach, contact or communicate with Councillor McKenzie.

McLennan was charged on May 15 for breaching his bail after an encounter in a local supermarket.

McLennan pleaded not guilty and, during a trial in Oban Sheriff Court on Monday July 15, it was revealed that the incident took place after he turned a corner in the store and said ‘oops’ or ‘oh’, followed by ‘hi’ or ‘hello’ to Councillor McKenzie.

While giving evidence, she said she ‘panicked and rushed past him’ before leaving the left the store, leaving her items and contacted the police.

McLennan said his ‘oh’ or ‘oops’ comment was made after avoiding a collision of trolleys and said ‘hi’ or ‘hello’ to be courteous.

Procurator fiscal Laura Mundell argued: ‘The essence of the offence is the part of the accused’s comment to Mrs McKenzie that it was a greeting. At some point he has recognised her and as a courtesy he says hello or hi. I would submit there has been a breach here and it has been the attempt by the accused to say hello or hi to the complainer.’

Edward Thornton said: ‘The defence is one of reasonable excuse. It was quite clear this was a chance meeting and what was said by Mr McLennan seems to have been an exclamation and a one-word greeting. It was an inadvertent comment. This is not a case of him knowing Julie McKenzie was there and approaching her.’

Mr Thornton said his client knew his bail conditions and was ‘well aware that she would call the police and cause trouble for him’.

Sheriff Patrick Hughes said: ‘This was unplanned and took place within a relatively small place within a short period – in fact, the period could not have been more than a minute.

‘The correct thing for the accused to have done would have been to say nothing.’

However, ‘given the spontaneous manner of this event’, the sheriff was satisfied it took place with reasonable excuse and found the charge not proven.