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Grantown crash trial ends in turmoil

By Tom Ramage

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A jury trial ended in turmoil today when its spokesman appeared to deliver an incomplete verdict on a driver accused of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.

The 15 men and women had been given instructions in law by Sheriff Margaret Neilson that included the option of conviction on a statutory alternative on accused Rosamund Balyunzi.

It was of the lesser charge of careless driving, which carries much lower penalties.

Two and a half day trial ended in turmoil at Inverness
Two and a half day trial ended in turmoil at Inverness

So when the clerk asked the jury for their verdict on the charge before them on the indictment, which was dangerous driving, the foreman replied not guilty by a majority and said nothing else.

The clerk noted it, repeated it to the jury, asking if it was a true verdict. Confirmation was given and Sheriff Neilson acquitted Ms Balyunzi and then thanked the jury for their service, performing their civic duty and dismissed them.

However the foreman by video link asked a question concerning the reduced charge. He did not indicate whether that was to be a guilty or a not guilty or a query.

There was a brief stunned silence, Sheriff Neilson said to fiscal depute Robert Weir and defence solicitor Graham Mann: "I thought I had given clear instructions."

Both lawyers agreed, Mr Mann commenting he had never come across such a situation before.The foreman apologised for misunderstanding and the jury was told to remain where they were.

Sheriff Neilson then cut the link with the jury to privately consult with her clerk.

The Sheriff returned a short time later, and told Ms Balyunzi that she was free to go and that she had been acquitted. The live link with the jury was not restored.

During the two and a half day trial, the jury heard that Ms Balyunzi, who had been involved in a near head-on collision, told police at the scene: "it was my fault. I may have been going too fast."

The catering business operator of Courtyard Cottages, Forres admitted that her Citroen people carrier had crossed on to the other lane and collided with another Citroen on July 22, 2019.

It was being driven by 81 year old Graham Dunsford, with his 79 year old wife, Sandra as a passenger. He sustained several fractures and was seriously injured. His spouse escaped with minor injuries, as did Ms Balyunzi.

The incident occurred just north of Grantown on Spey on the A939 on the Dava Moor road.

But at Inverness Sheriff Court on the second day of her trial, Ms Balyunzi told the jury: "I don't know why I ended up in the opposite lane but I did cross over.

"I was driving optimally at the correct speed and it was a complete shock."

Ms Balyunzi added that her comments to the police were "me trying to make sense of it all. I apologised because I crossed into the other lane."

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