Motorist who caused death of cyclists spared jail

Edinburgh Sheriff Court. Picture: TSPL
Edinburgh Sheriff Court. Picture: TSPL
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A MOTORIST who has caused the death of two cyclists avoided a prison sentence after a sheriff heard he was “genuinely remorseful” for killing a bike-loving pensioner.

Gary McCourt, 49, was instead ordered to do 300 hours community service for causing the death of Audrey Fyfe, 75, by careless driving in August 2011.

One leading cyclist described the sentence as “scandalous”.

Edinburgh Sheriff Court heard last month that McCourt had not been paying attention when he clipped Mrs Fyfe’s back wheel at a road junction in the city in August 2011. The pensioner – who was not wearing a helmet – somersaulted through the air before hitting the ground.

Mrs Fyfe, a former member of the Cyclists Touring Club (CTC), died from her injuries two days later.

McCourt, who was jailed for two years in 1986 for causing the death of George Dalgity, 22, was spared a prison sentence by Sheriff James Scott because there were no aggravating factors such as drink or drugs.

He said the collision happened because McCourt had “momentarily” lost concentration.

Passing sentence, the sheriff said he noted McCourt’s mental health had suffered as a consequence of the collision.

He said: “I take into account that the accused has repeatedly expressed genuine remorse for causing the death of Mrs Fyfe.

“I take into account that the accused has been ill and has suffered from depression and that he displays signs of post traumatic stress disorder.

“Mrs Fyfe wasn’t to blame in any way for the accident. However, she was not wearing a safety helmet and that, in my view, contributed to her death.”

The sheriff said he was following guidelines laid down by the Criminal Court of Appeal, and the circumstances surrounding Mrs Fyfe’s death meant a non-custodial sentence could be imposed. McCourt was also banned from driving for five years.

Peter Hayman, a CTC council member in Scotland who attended Mrs Fyfe’s funeral, said: “This 300 hours of community service and only a five-year ban as a sentence is scandalous and goes against the efforts to encourage cycling.”

Gordon Seabright, chief executive of the National Cycling Charity in Scotland, said: “It’s clear from this case – and, sadly, from many others too – that the justice system is not dealing effectively with driving that puts other road users in danger.”

McCourt, from Edinburgh, was found guilty by a jury of causing death by reckless driving after a four-day trial last month. Sentence was deferred for the court to obtain reports about his character.

It then emerged that in October 1985, McCourt had struck Mr Dalgity. The student was killed after McCourt collided with him as he pedalled along Regent Road in Edinburgh.

Last month, Mr Dalgity’s sister, Ann, said her family wanted McCourt to go to prison for the latest offence. “We don’t want to intrude on the grief of the Fyfe family, and we hope they will not be further hurt, but we do believe that he should receive a very stiff sentence this time around,” she said.

In the latest incident, McCourt told police he had “clipped” Mrs Fyfe’s back wheel at the junction between Portobello Road and Craigentinny Avenue. He claimed he had not committed any criminal offence and that the collision had been accidental, but the jury convicted him.