Comment: ‘Cyclists need protection from courts’

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TOUGH questions are being asked today about what is the value and role of our prisons. Punishment? Retribution? Rehabilitation?

The top legal minds in Scotland have ruled that Gary McCourt should not face a jail sentence for knocking down and killing 75-year-old cyclist Audrey Fyfe in Edinburgh. McCourt pleaded not guilty to careless driving, but was convicted after a trial.

Twenty six years earlier, McCourt knocked down and killed cyclist George Dalgity in Regent Road.

Two dead cyclists. Two families who have felt total despair and anguish. But 49-year-old McCourt is neither jailed for the latest offence nor given a life-time driving ban.

Compare this to any number of people who are jailed daily in our sheriff courts.

A father jailed for 165 days for stealing a charity box from St John’s Hospital. A wife jailed for posting heroin to her husband who was in Addiewell Prison. A 32-year-old heavy drinker who tried to steal a teenager’s handbag.

Are we appalled by these crimes? Yes? Should these people be jailed? Probably, yes.

But are these crimes really worse than killing two people - even if you say they were both accidents?

Driving a car is a huge responsibility. Do it badly and death and destruction can follow. Our legal system needs to underline this message. And those who cycle on our roads need to know they have some protection from the courts.

Safety first

SAVING money was a key objective of the move to a single fire and rescue service. But when it comes to plans for centralising control centres and transferring the handling of 999 calls from Edinburgh to Dundee, questions have to be asked about whether this is really in the best interests of the public. Safety first should be the mantra.