Scottish judges have thrown out an appeal to jail a man and give him a lifetime driving ban – despite having killed two cyclists.
Scottish prosecutors, backed by a CTC petition signed by more than 6,000 people, demanded a harsher sentence for Edinburgh driver Gary McCourt after he killed keen cyclist Audrey Fyfe in 2011.
It means McCourt’s original “scandalous” sentence for killing Fyfe, handed down in May this year, stands at 300 hours of community service and a five-year driving ban.
One of Fyfe’s daughters, Aileen Brown told BikeRadar: “I’m absolutely numb. What worries us is what message is that sending out – how many people does he have to kill before losing his driving licence? How can we encourage people to ride bikes if it’s acceptable to go mowing people down?”
At the original sentencing the judge, Sheriff James Scott, said there were no “aggravating circumstances” in the Fyfe incident and that McCourt had “momentarily” lost control. He also said that in his view, Fyfe’s decision not to wear a helmet contributed to her death – which today’s 27-page judgement stated should not have had a bearing on the initial sentencing.
Brown said they would digest the court’s ruling before deciding whether to mount another appeal or invest energy in the “wider issues” of making cycling more desirable and safer.
McCourt had previously killed another cyclist, George Dalgity, in 1985.
Donald Urquhart, the secretary of cycling charity CTC Scotland said: “In this case, two people have been killed by someone who has failed to meet even the most basic standards of driving on two separate occasions, but who is still being allowed to resume driving at some point in the near future… that is neither right nor acceptable in a civilised society.
The Edinburgh Evening News reported that Scottish prosecutors had been pressing for McCourt to be given an eight-month jail term for killing Fyfe.
In a summary of the reasoning on the Judiciary of Scotland website, it reasoned why MCCourt hadn’t been handed a lifetime driving ban: “The court was unable to agree with the Crown’s submission that the period of disqualification was inadequate. This is a disqualification for a significant number of years, [five] and even after those years have expired, the respondent will not be able to drive (if indeed he wishes to do so) until he has passed the extended test of competence.”