A motorist who killed a cyclist when he drove his car at speed along a road in Cheltenham has been jailed for six years. The victim's family had called on the judge to impose "the maximum sentence to send out a clear message that our roads are not race tracks.”
Gloucester Crown Court heard that witnesses had said that Alexander Organ, aged 23, was driving at a speed estimated to be between 60 and 90 miles an hour when he struck cyclist Thomas Dunleavy in June last year, killing him instantly.
Mr Dunleavy, aged 48, had been cycling home from a Sainsbury’s supermarket on Priors Road when the fatal crash happened at 8.40pm on the evening of 17 June 2017, reports Gloucestershire Live.
Organ, who had been at a pub in Bishop’s Cleeve with his father, failed to stop at the scene and was traced by police 1 hour 40 minutes after the collision. He had returned home, then went back out.
He pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving, although it was only three months later that he admitted to police, who had employed a team of forensic officers to try and piece together the evening’s events, that it was his vehicle and he had been at the wheel.
Julian Kesner, prosecuting, said that one motorist said recalled how she heard “squealing tyres” as Organ went through a roundabout, while another witness said she saw him “flying past her and overtaking two other vehicles.”
A pedestrian was forced to jump out of the way as the motorist, a roofer by trade, sped by, while a mother walking with her children along the road pulled them back as far as she could to protect them.
Immediately before hitting Mr Dunleavy, Organ had overtaken another motorist then went the wrong side of a traffic island, hitting a kerb then striking the cyclist, whom the prosecutor said was “doing nothing wrong.”
Mr Kesner continued: “He was just coming back from Sainsbury's. The impact sent Mr Dunleavy into the air. He collided with railings while still in the air and he sustained multiple injuries and died immediately at the scene.”
When Organ was arrested later that evening, he was just above the drink-drive limit, although expert testimony put forward by the defence suggested he would have been around two times over it.
Prior to sentencing, the court hear a statement from Mr Dunleavy’s brother Patrick in which he called on the judge to impose the maximum penalty possible.
Causing death by dangerous driving carries a maximum punishment of 14 years' imprisonment, although in practice that is never imposed and factors such as a guilty plea also reduce the term handed down.
The letter described the effect of Mr Dunleavy’s death on his family, who avoid the area where he was killed.
"My sister won't even drive in the direction of Priors Road now,” he said. “My other sister who cycles to work every day has changed her route to avoid the daily reminder of what happened. We all try to avoid this road.
"Our family find it incomprehensible that having done something so horrific he [Organ] did not go to the police and admit what he had done straightaway."
He added: "We as a family call for the maximum sentence to send out a clear message that our roads are not race tracks.”
In mitigation, Steve Young said that Organ had undergone counselling, was genuinely remorseful about what he had done, and that his initial refusal to comment to police was based on advice from his previous solicitor.
He also read out a letter that Organ had written to the family of Mr Dunleavy, who worked with the Learning Disability Partnership Board in Cheltenham.
In the letter, Organ wrote: "Not a day goes by when I don't think about what I have done and the pain I have caused you all. I will be forever in your debt.
"I know you want to see justice for Tommy and I do too. I deserve everything I get today.
"If I could do anything to go back and change that day I would in the blink of an eye,” he continued.
“I know forgiveness is impossible – I am writing so that you know I know I deserve what I get. I truly am sorry to have caused you pain."
The solicitor attempted to convince the judge that the case should not fall within the highest sentencing category, as the prosecution had asserted, arguing that the dangerous driving was not “prolonged” but the judge rejected his argument.
Sentencing Organ to six years’ imprisonment and banning him from driving for six years, Judge Ian Lawrie QC said: "This was an appalling piece of driving over half a mile at those speeds and in those conditions in an urban area.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.