Lorry driver jailed for asleep-at-the-wheel death

High Court in Edinburgh heard how stunned drivers gave chase to Ian Thorburn. Picture: Bill Henry

High Court in Edinburgh heard how stunned drivers gave chase to Ian Thorburn. Picture: Bill Henry

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A LORRY driver who killed a fellow motorist moments after falling asleep at the wheel has been jailed for four years.

Ian Thorburn, 53, didn’t pull over after his truck collided with Robert MacLellan, 65, on the A92 dual carriage way near Cowdenbeath, Fife, in May 2014.

The High Court in Edinburgh heard how stunned drivers gave chase to Thorburn after he continued on his way.

But Thorburn failed to brake or give the eyewitnesses any impression that he was going to pull over for them.

When police arrested Thornburn, he told them: “I would like to say but I have advised to say no comment.”

On Thursday, judge Lady Wise told Thorburn that she had to send him to prison.

She added: “The only appropriate disposal in this case is the imposition of a custodial sentence.”

The story emerged after Thorburn, of Kirknewton, West Lothian, pleaded guilty before judge Lady Wise at the high court last month. Sentence had been deferred until Thursday so the court could obtain reports about his character.

He pleaded guilty to charges of causing death by dangerous driving and failing to stop at an accident scene on May 19 this year

He also admitted a third charge of failing to report the incident within a reasonable time frame to the authorities.

Prosecution lawyer Alex Prentice QC told the court that the accident took place on the A92 just outside Cowdenbeath in Fife, just after 1.15pm. Mr MacLellan, of Tain, Ross-shire, had earlier stopped driving and had been standing in a lay by.

The court heard that eyewitness Leonide McGuinness was driving with passenger Andrew Clark when they witnessed the incident.

Mr Prentice added: “Leonide McGuinness was then aware of a loud thud and saw the lorry judder as it collided with something and they both saw debris including a person’s boot being thrown onto the carriage way.

“The aftermath of the collision was filmed on CCTV and shows the deceased landing on the lay by.

“Various motorists stopped to try and assist and the emergency services were contacted.

“The accused’s vehicle at no time had the brakes applied or gave any indication that it was going to stop.

“Leonide McGuinness followed the vehicle and noted the registration number as SW13 DTX. Leonide McGuinness overtook the accused’s vehicle and both Leonide McGuinness and Andrew Clark stated the driver was staring ahead and would not look at them.

“They both gained the impression that he was trying to ignore the fact that he had been involved in a collision.”

Mr Prentice also said that when Thorburn went home, he didn’t tell his partner that he had struck Mr MacLellan.

Mr Prentice added: “The accused returned home and his partner felt that he was quiet and that something was wrong.

“He stated to her he had a headache and that he had been falling asleep during the day whilst driving and whilst on the A92, he had fallen asleep and his wing mirror had collided with the mirror of a lorry parked in a lay by.”

Mr Prentice said that when Thorburn was arrested, he declined to answer questions during his formal interview.

Mr Prentice said that Thorburn declined to answer questions during his police interview.

He added: “During the interview under caution, the accused initially stated ‘I would like to say but I have been advised to say no comment’ and thereafter replied no comment to all questions put to him.”

On Thursday, defence solicitor advocate Gordon Martin told the court that his client regretted his actions and had pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity.

He added: “There is nothing I can say that will bring comfort to the deceased’s family. My client has been of previously good character and I would ask for him to be dealt with as leniently as possible.

“He has contributed to society greatly throughout his working life. He has been a good citizen.

“It is regrettable that he fell asleep at the wheel and took another life. He will have to live with that for the rest of his life.

“He accepts that the court has no other option but to impose a custodial sentence. The are no other outstanding offences or convictions against him.”

Passing sentence, Lady Wise told Thorburn that if he hadn’t pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity, she would have sentenced him to six years.

She also banned Thorburn from driving for 10 years and told him that he would have to resit his driving test at the end of his ban.