Driver who killed couple and their dog is spared jail

The case was heard at Edinburgh Sheriff Court.
The case was heard at Edinburgh Sheriff Court.

A CARELESS driver who killed a motorcyclist, his pillion passenger and their pet dog in a head-on crash while on his mobile phone was spared prison yesterday.

Farm worker Liam Johnston was ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work under a 12-month community payback order instead and made subject to an electronic curfew from 8pm to 6am for six months.

Edinburgh Sheriff Court was told that biker Charlie Howden, 64, his wife Fiona Stanley, 59, and their dog Cleo all died after Johnson’s white BMW 116 Sport smashed into their vintage Triumph Bonneville motorcycle combo.

The accident happened on the A6094 between Rosewell and Howgate, Midlothian, at around 10.30pm on September 1, 2016.

Johnson, 27, of William Street, Dalbeattie, in Dumfries and Galloway, pleaded guilty to causing the couple’s death by careless driving.

Prosecutor Iain Gray from the Crown’s road traffic fatalities unit told an earlier hearing that the crash happened on a rural section of road in darkness. He said Johnson was talking to his friend Claire Lowrie via a Bluetooth system in his car right up to the moment of impact.

Father-of-two Charlie and partner Fiona had been together for 33 years and shared a love of motorcycles. They got married in May 2013 wearing their motorcycle gear. They were members of Lothian and Borders Vintage Motorcycle Club and attended Thursday bike meets at The Leadburn Inn, including on the night they died.

Sheriff Norman McFadyen told Johnson the accident was “truly dreadful”.