Sentencing variations highlighted in cyclist death cases north and south of border

Five years jail for one, community service for the other

by Mark Appleton   October 15, 2010  

Gavel

The sentencing of people convicted of driving offences which have caused death or serious injury to cyclists, is an issue that often enrages the cycling community.

All too often it seems that those affected, be it loved ones left behind or victims whose lives are irrevocably changed through injury, feel they have been failed by a justice system that is too lenient or shows little consistency in its sentencing procedures.

While the following two cases are not entirely comparable, they are at the very least, indicative of how sentencing for what appear to be similar offences can show wide variations.

Yesterday in Cumbria, 19-year old Matthew Lowther was sentenced to five years in a young offenders’ institution and banned from driving for a similar period. Having denied the offence, he had earlier been convicted of causing the death by dangerous driving of a cyclist, 43-year old mother of three Louise Stoddart.

Also yesterday, over the border in Scotland, which has its own legal system, appeal court judges upheld an earlier decision by a sheriff, not to jail a motorist who had admitted to being responsible for the death of a cyclist through careless driving.

Stephen McKay, 35, had been ordered to carry out 240 hours of community service after he admitted causing the death of 29-year old Brian Taylor by driving carelessly.

McKay's driving record included convictions for drink-driving, driving while disqualified and speeding, yet appeal court judges refused to jail him, electing instead to increase his driving ban from 12 months to four years and ordering him to re-sit his driving test.

Clearly, one driver denied his guilt and the other admitted it, factors which influence sentencing. But to many observers the former sentence at least starts to reflect the value of the life lost and may cause other young men to think about their own behaviour behind the wheel. The decision by the Scottish courts, however, will simply appear baffling to many.

There is, of course, a difference in the eyes of the law between "careless" and the more serious "dangerous" driving offences, but for the loved ones of the victims, that distinction is probably academic. For those left behind, it seems, it is the outcome of the careless/dangerous driving that should be the focus of sentencing judges and not the legal technicalities of the offence.

 

2 user comments

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Aye makes you proud to be Scottish! NOT!!!
Scottish sheriffs are a breed apart; they can have some quite reactionary views and would seldom be said to be not influenced by their own opinions and beliefs.
Things are better than they were for cyclists up here but we are still second class citizens. We have the 'peek a boo' cycle lane system of a series of short lanes that end abruptly while collectively (no doubt) meeting the 'x' miles of cycle lanes council target! Many motorists do feel that cyclists should not be on the roads at all. Increasingly I see more cyclists (esp new) taking to the pavements. This annoys me but I can see why... And don't get me started about the condition of the roads!!! Angry

Felix

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posted by Felix [109 posts]
17th October 2010 - 11:49

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Felix wrote:
Aye makes you proud to be Scottish! NOT!!!
Scottish sheriffs are a breed apart; they can have some quite reactionary views and would seldom be said to be not influenced by their own opinions and beliefs.
Things are better than they were for cyclists up here but we are still second class citizens. We have the 'peek a boo' cycle lane system of a series of short lanes that end abruptly while collectively (no doubt) meeting the 'x' miles of cycle lanes council target! Many motorists do feel that cyclists should not be on the roads at all. Increasingly I see more cyclists (esp new) taking to the pavements. This annoys me but I can see why... And don't get me started about the condition of the roads!!! Angry

Agreed 100% Felix

A 25 mile commute into and out of Glasgow is a daily descent into hell - and the only reason I persevere is because if we don't no-one will.

I noticed that the route through Castlemilk and along Aikenhead Road has had pot-holes with a vintage of several years behind them finally fixed. Guess they were damaging too many cars!

posted by mad_scot_rider [544 posts]
28th October 2010 - 13:27

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