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Blair gamekeeper Christopher Mulqueeney cleared of drink-driving

A Blairgowrie gamekeeper who was more than twice the legal alcohol limit has been cleared of drink-driving after a sheriff accepted his special defence — that he had not known he had been drinking alcohol before he got behind the wheel.

  • Published in the Courier : 25.06.10
  • Published online : 25.06.10 @ 02.58pm
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Christopher Mulqueeney (51), Upper Ballunie Farm, Blairgowrie, stood trial at Dundee Sheriff Court, accused of driving with excess alcohol (93 mics) on Dronley Road and Coupar Angus Road on January 4, and of possessing a shotgun while drunk in a public place, Coupar Angus Road.

He denied both charges and was acquitted of the shotgun charge after a legal submission.

The court heard officers who stopped Mulqueeney in Coupar Angus Road because of his erratic driving saw a shotgun in the back of his Land Rover.

However, solicitor David McKie submitted that this was not a public place and Sheriff Derek Pyle acquitted him on that charge.

Crown and defence agreed that Mulqueeney had a breath-alcohol reading of 93 mics when tested at police HQ, but the defence put forward a defence of "non self-induced automatism," claiming he had not known he had been drinking alcohol before he got behind the wheel.

The defence has to establish that there is an external factor that accused could not foresee which results in "alienation of reason" and absence of self-control.

Two police officers said they attended as Mulqueeney was entering Lochee, following a phone call about his driving from a member of the public.

He failed to negotiate the roundabout and mounted the pavement. He was slumped over the wheel as he drove.

The accused was smelling strongly of alcohol and was slurring his speech and had to be helped out the vehicle.

Mulqueeney told the court he needed his gun licence for his work and had never had his certificates revoked until charged with this matter.

On the day in question, he was a guest at a dusk duck flight (shoot) at a friend's house a few miles from his home. He was not drinking as he was running a shoot the next day and was on antibiotics.

After the shoot he poured himself fruit juice and did not think it had alcohol in it. He said he only discovered afterwards there was alcohol in the jug.

He said "It didn't occur to me that I might have had alcohol."

He drove along to the Kettins crossroads, felt ill and passed out, he said. He came to, felt a pain in the chest and looked for his mobile to phone his wife for help, but could not find it.

"I must have started to drive and I was thinking 'I'll be home in a minute and my wife will call an ambulance'. The next thing I remember is the second policeman looking at me. I don't know where I was."

Mulqueeney said he was "really pleased the officers got me and got me off the road. Someone could have been killed."

Asked about his medical history by his solicitor, the accused said he had heart problems since 2004 and had been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, in which the heart races.

He said he had not been a heavy drinker. He agreed that he previously told a doctor he drank 30 units of alcohol a week but said in court that it was only one week when stressed.

Depute fiscal Emma Stewart said he must know the taste or effect of alcohol on his body. He replied, "I don't drink enough to be affected."

She said there was two hours between him leaving the shoot and being stopped by the police and asked if he could have been drinking.

"I don't know where I would have got it from," he replied.

Defence witness Magnus Linklater said the accused had managed shoots for him at Riemore Estate, Dunkeld, he was extremely professional and he had not seen him drink on a shoot day.

He conceded he had not seen the accused as a guest at a shoot, been at the shoot on January 4 or seen him that day.

Sheriff Pyle was satisfied that the defence was made out and acquitted him of drink-driving.

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