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Former taxi driver and councillor acquitted of sexual offences

Stornoway Sheriff Court.
Stornoway Sheriff Court.

A former councillor and taxi driver accused of a string of sexual offences has been acquitted of all charges at Stornoway Sheriff Court.

Complaints had been made by four women in relation to the conduct of Donald John MacRae, 47, who served as a councillor for the Harris and South Lochs ward on Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council) from 2012 to 2017.

However, after a two-day hearing, Sheriff David Sutherland yesterday upheld a submission that there was no case to answer due to insufficiency of evidence, particularly in relation to uncertainty over when key incidents were alleged to have taken place.

Two of the complainants alleged that when Mr MacRae was taking them home after a night out in Stornoway he sexually assaulted them – one by touching her chest and another by trying to have sex with her in a toilet.

Both incidents were said to have taken place around eight to 10 years ago and, due to “discrepancies” in court, the charges were amended to reflect a wider time-gap.

However, MacRae’s solicitor Jennifer Pritchard argued against its competency as there may be “a number of defences in terms of alibi” they have been unable to explore due to the last-minute change in the wording of the charges. She also said the complainers were “not credible or reliable”.

A third complainer said that when MacRae was giving her a run home from the airport last year he gave her “quite a slap” on the thigh and engaged in “very inappropriate” sexual conversation. She said she only came forward to police after hearing Mr MacRae faced other charges.

Ms Pritchard said that in order for a conviction to be imposed in relation to the slap, the crown needed to demonstrate “intent”. She said that as the contact occurred during, as the complainer stated, “general chitchat”, this was not the case.

A fourth complainer did not appear in court.

Mr MacRae’s taxi license was suspended by the council after the charges were initially made.

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