St Andrews University’s head of peace and conflict studies has been cleared over a road rage incident – after she claimed the allegation had been invented by the son of a farmer with whom she had been involved in a bizarre three-year neighbour dispute.
Dr Hazel Cameron - the director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the St Andrews University School of International Relations - faced a charge of dangerous driving over an alleged incident in rural Fife.
She was accused of driving her car at Thomas Struthers, who was skateboarding on the road at the time, and forcing him to take evasive action to avoid a collision.
But the allegation wasn’t passed on to police until several days after the alleged incident - the day after Mr Struthers’ father, Michael Struthers, had been released from custody by police after an allegation was made against him by Dr Cameron.
Dr Cameron – a former police officer – said she had been the subject of a campaign of “intimidation” by Mr Struthers, which included him being found outside her bedroom window early one morning and saw him gluing padlocks to prevent her using her driveway.
The academic said a row over ownership of a narrow strip of grass verge around her cottage was at the root of the dispute, with the farmer at one point claiming he could drive his tractor through her garden if he so wished.
Dundee Sheriff Court was told that Mr Struthers has planning permission for a development of 12 houses on his rural farm at Glenduckie, Fife, but that relies on him taking ownership of the verge outside the cottage formerly owned by Dr Cameron. She has sold the property and moved away from the area as a result of the case.
Mr Struthers declined to comment on a series of allegations Dr Cameron made against him from the witness box.
Dr Cameron told the court she had been met by police at the gates of her cottage when she returned from London, where she said she had been working with the Crown Prosecution Service on an extradition case, and she said: “This incident did not happen. It is a lie.”
She added: “For three years I was victimised by Michael Struthers,” listing a series of incidents including gluing shut the locks on the gates to her driveway, finding him in her garden.
Thomas Struthers (19) earlier told the trial at Dundee Sheriff Court that he had been out on his skateboard on June 29 last year when the alleged incident occurred. He said he believed Dr Cameron had driven at him because of a dispute between the academic and his father, Michael Struthers.
Dr Cameron (48) denied a charge of dangerous driving on summary complaint.
Sheriff Lorna Drummond QC found her not guilty at the end of a two-day trial. She said: “I found the two witness’s evidence to be vague in places.
“Dr Cameron gave her evidence in an entirely straightforward way with clear recollection of events.
“I believed what she told the court about past difficulties with Mr Struthers.”