A freelance journalist has been fined in court after flying his drone over the site of a fatal car crash in Aberdeenshire.
Shane Stephen turned up at the scene of the collision last summer on the B9119 Dinnet to Tarland road and drew the attention of police.
Aberdeen Sheriff Court was told the 27-year-old flew his drone around 40 feet above the site, which had been cleared of casualties and the vehicles involved.
Stephen volunteered to show officers the pictures and delete any he’d taken but instead found himself charged under drone legislation, which was described by his lawyer as “a bit woolly”.
Fiscal depute Andrew McMann said Stephen – who he described as an “unrecognised amateur press member” – was flying his drone over the closed-off road as crash investigations continued.
Mr McMann said: “Essentially, what’s happened is the accused has felt the need to fly his drone over that closed area in breach of the legislation.”
The incident happened on July 19 2022.
Defence lawyer Chris Maitland said: “I’d understood it was just nosiness.
“He showed the police a press pass. I don’t know why the police say it’s unrecognised just because they didn’t recognise it.”
Mr Maitland explained his client had done freelance press photography work in the past and now worked offshore.
‘It seems to be after the cars had gone, let alone any fatalities’
He went on: “He seems to have fully complied with everything requested of him.
“He let them see the photos he’d taken. He offered to delete any imagery he’d taken.
“It seems to be after the cars had gone, let alone any fatalities. You can only see police cars and a fire engine there.”
The solicitor said none of the photos taken were private or intimate in any way.
Stephen, of Charlotte Gardens, Aberdeen, pled guilty to contravening a relevant requirement imposed in the Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/947 on the rules and procedures for the operation of unmanned aircraft.
The contravention occurred by flying the drone within the area of an emergency response without permission from the emergency services.
‘I don’t know what his motivations were’
Mr Maitland said he’d spoken to colleagues who use drones themselves and that the rules were not very clear.
The lawyer said the wording on the Civil Aviation Authority’s website was “a bit vague”.
He said: “Other solicitors told me they didn’t realise this was a regulation and they feel they’re fairly well-versed in the regulations.
“It’s perhaps a bit woolly in terms of the way it’s worded.
“The reason this was felt in the public interest is because there was a fatality in the crash.”
Sheriff Margaret Hodge said: “His position is he was ignorant of the law?”
When Mr Maitland agreed, she continued: “Well now he isn’t.”
She said: “I think the point is about respecting and protecting the privacy of anyone involved in the emergency.
“I don’t know what his motivations were for doing this.”
She fined Stephen £260.
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