A wealthy businessman was criticised by a sheriff for treating the world-famous North Coast 500 like “a playground” and mowing down two German motor-cyclists in his Porsche.

Sheriff Margaret Neilson was angered by comments 49-year-old engineering company boss Craig Coote made to social workers that the jury only convicted him because he was English and drove a Porsche.

But she stopped short of jailing Coote because of the effect custody would have on his employees and family. Instead she ordered him to pay the two cyclists a total of £11,000 compensation for their injuries and ordered him to carry out 300 hours of unpaid community work. 

Coote from Liveridge, West Yorkshire was also banned from driving for three years. He was found guilty of dangerous driving after a three-and-a-half day trial with the jury taking 30 minutes to return their verdict. Sentence had been deferred for a report, which incurred the wrath of Sheriff Neilson, at Inverness Sheriff Court.

She told defence solicitor Graham Mann: “He has suggested that the jury were
prejudiced and racist. He has been extremely disrespectful to the jury. The report says that he has displayed arrogance and no concern for others.”

Addressing Coote personally, the sheriff said: “The jury found you guilty of a very serious charge and you have clearly found it difficult to accept their verdict. 

“I am satisfied the jury carried out their duty in a careful manner and in accordance with their oath.

“The North Coast 500 is a stunningly beautiful route and must be treated with great respect. It is not a playground.”

The sheriff added that the road was also a lifeline for locals apart from affording tourists the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the area.

She also praised accident and emergency nurse Jerry Hawker, 27, who had been touring with her husband. 

Coote had also made unpleasant comments about her after she gave evidence against him that he had sped past her and that she thought Coote and his friends were in convoy.

“I find your attitude towards her surprising. 

“Had it not been for her public spiritedness and effective action in treating the injured, the outcome may have been worse and you would have been in a higher court,” the sheriff went on.

Coote was overtaking another car on a blind bend in his performance Porsche 911GT3 when he failed to see German bikers Annabel Zekl and Luiza Cabrera, both 24, on August 30, 2017. 

He hit them both head on at Stronchrubie, on the A835 and A837 between Ledmore and Lochinver.

Coote was ordered to pay £10,000 to Ms Cabrera, who was the most seriously injured and £1,000 to Ms Zekl. He agreed to pay it within 14 days.

Both suffered bad leg injuries, with Ms Cabrera scarred for life and without feeling in a part of her leg. Their bikes were written off.

Accident and emergency nurse, 27-year- old Jerry Hawker, who was touring in a camper van with her husband, told the trial that Coote had overtaken her five minutes earlier at 70-80mph with a bend approaching. Her husband commented that he would cause a crash. She thought Coote, who was accompanying three other sporty-type cars, was “a boy racer”.