Sentence review demanded after killer walks free

Gary McCourt. Picture: Lesley Martin

Gary McCourt. Picture: Lesley Martin

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THE Justice Minister is to be pushed to start an urgent review of sentencing guidelines after killer driver Gary McCourt again walked free from court.

Alison Johnstone MSP is seeking a meeting with Kenny MacAskill to quiz the minister over an appeal court decision not to impose a heftier punishment on McCourt, despite widespread outrage after he received just a five-year driving ban for causing the death of 75-year-old Edinburgh cyclist Audrey Fyfe.

It is understood the family of the pensioner will be invited to talks likely to be in the Scottish Parliament.

The news comes amid a public outcry over the “disgusting” sentence which prompted relatives to brand the justice system “not fit for purpose”.

McCourt was previously jailed for knocking down and killing George Dalgity, 22, as he cycled along Regent Road on October 18, 1985.

Today, Ms Johnstone revealed that a summit with the Justice Minister to discuss sentencing guidelines was being sought.

She said: “The widespread dismay at yesterday’s decision must be acknowledged by the government and I am seeking a meeting with the Justice Secretary to discuss what options there are to review the guidelines provided to sheriffs on sentencing.

“The Justice Secretary will have heard the Fyfe family’s extreme disappointment that this man could be driving again on Edinburgh’s streets in five year’s time.”

It is not yet known when the meeting is due to take place.

Meanwhile, campaigners are calling for compulsory re-testing of motorists as part of a road safety drive in the wake of McCourt’s appeal hearing.
Donald Urquhart, secretary of cycling charity CTC Scotland – which has been supporting Mrs Fyfe’s family – said more had to be done to improve safety for “vulnerable road users” and insisted that re-testing of drivers would be an important first step.

“The criminal justice system doesn’t protect vulnerable road-users the way it should,” he said.

“I think there should be far better driver training. The focus seems to be teaching people to pass their test rather than learn to drive and we don’t re-test people.

“Theoretically you can pass your test at the age of 17 and hit 75 before the DVLA start asking you to reapply for a driving licence every three years. That’s something transport authorities need to look at.”

Mr Urquhart said changing the emphasis to driver training rather than introducing laws governing what cyclists are required to wear – such as helmets or fluorescent clothing – was crucial.

This view was supported by Ian Maxwell, of cycling campaign group Spokes, who said few cyclists in Europe wore helmets but casualty rates were often very low. He said: “Anything that adds to the pressure to wear helmets in the UK we feel is a bad thing.”