Appeal considered in Audrey Fyfe case, daughter says allowing motorist to drive again "beyond comprehension"

Victim's daughter also calls for tougher sentencing in cases in which victim is a cycilst

by Simon_MacMichael   May 8, 2013  

Audrey Fyfe pic courtesy Scotsman.jpg

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COFPS) in Scotland has said it is giving “"careful consideration" to the issue of appealing the sentence last week handed down to motorist Gary McCourt for causing the death of Edinburgh cyclists Audrey Fyfe, on the grounds that it is “unduly lenient.“

McCourt, who had been found guilty of causing the death through reckless driving of another cyclist in 1986, was given a 300 hour community sentence as well as a five-year ban from driving.

Mrs Fyfe’s daughter described the fact that he will be back driving in five years as “beyond comprehension” and has called for tougher sentencing in cases where the victim is a cyclist.

McCourt had denied the charge of causing the death in August 2012 of Mrs Fyfe, aged 75, through careless driving, although he admitted that he had “clipped” her rear wheel.

Mrs Fyfe’s daughter Aileen Brown, a member of Bath Cycling Club who sometimes accompanied her mother on cycle touring holidays in Europe, told BBC News Scotland: “When he killed mum, he didn't take one life away, he destroyed the lives of our entire family.

"I had prepared myself for the possibility that Gary McCourt wouldn't get a custodial sentence, but the prospect of seeing him driving again in five years is beyond comprehension.

"How many innocent people does he have to kill before his licence is confiscated permanently?"

Speaking of her mother, Ms Brown said: "Mum enjoyed nothing more than a day cycling with family or friends followed by a relaxing swim.

"She had the energy and enthusiasm of a 40-year-old and was an inspiration to everyone she met whether in the cycling community, the Scottish country dance troop, the ramblers or her church friends. She always saw the positives in life."

She added that the family wanted to see tougher sentencing in cases where the victim is a cyclist, something that is the subject of a campaign launched by British Cycling and CTC, among others, last year.

Ms Brown urged that where a temporary ban was enforced, there should be retraining, as well as continuous assessment and monitoring once the driver is back behind the wheel.

"A lifetime ban is the only reasonable outcome for Gary McCourt as he still doesn't appear to acknowledge that his driving skills are inadequate," she insisted.

"His paltry sentence also sends the message to other drivers that killing cyclists is a lesser crime."

She also backed calls for a system of presumed liability to be introduced, an issue that is the subject of a campaign led by law firm Cycle Law Scotland, and supported by organisations including CTC Scotland, Spokes and Pedal on Parliament.

In a column in the Scotsman on Monday, Brenda Mitchell of Cycle Law Scotland said: “[Mrs Fyfe] was the second cyclist killed by McCourt’s careless driving, but in his summing up the judge cited a ‘momentary’ lapse in concentration.

“He even suggested that the cyclist (an experienced bike rider) should have taken greater personal responsibility by wearing a helmet.

“While a civil lawyer, not a criminal one, I am very uneasy about this and the messages it sends out to road users.”

Cycle Law Scotland’s Road Share campaign urges the UK to follow 22 of the EU’s 27 Member States in implementing a system of presumed liability in road traffic incidents, something Mrs Fyfe’s daughter supports.

She said: "If we adopt the European process, for any RTAs involving a cyclist and driver, the assumption is that the driver is at fault unless they can prove otherwise."

Ms Brown concluded: "He has inflicted a lifetime sentence of irreplaceable loss on our family and friends. Sadly, mum won't be back in five years’ time. Our lives will never be the same again."

7 user comments

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Fully endorse the call for an appeal against the leniency of this sentence, but the language being used about liability is making it difficult to press this forward.

There may often be no fault on the part of the driver for a crash in criminal terms but there remains a liability incumbent on the driver which should automatically apply due to their use of equipment that can kill and injure.

Remember that in some places this detail is referred to as no fault liability which is exactly the same as applied to the use of any other machinery, or guns etc.

47 years of breaking bikes and still they offer me a 10 year frame warranty!

A V Lowe's picture

posted by A V Lowe [481 posts]
8th May 2013 - 12:25

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I hate the way judges fixate on helmets. If someone is killed while driving a convertible car, do they give lenient sentences because the car didn't have a roof?

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posted by spatuluk [27 posts]
8th May 2013 - 14:03

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so you get 8 months in jail for speeding, but nothing for killing someone?
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-22449442

posted by miuzikboy [54 posts]
8th May 2013 - 16:00

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I like the phrase the motorist used that he "clipped"
her rear wheel as though to diminish the fact he hit her.If you rear end someone whilst driving your usually at fault
If I ever end up on an assault charge I will try that with the judge I never hit him m'lord only clipped him about the head.
Us cyclist are not gaining anymore respect on the road and are just second class when it comes to the law in cases of injury and deaths.

Chadders x

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posted by chadders [73 posts]
8th May 2013 - 17:08

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miuzikboy wrote:
so you get 8 months in jail for speeding, but nothing for killing someone?

So it seems, if they're on a bicycle Sad

Plenty of speeding drivers have more than 12 points but don't even get a ban - mentioned on this site only a week or so ago:
http://road.cc/content/news/81904-more-8000-drivers-have-12-or-more-poin...
I'm fed up of excuses like "I need the vehicle for my job". if your license is that important then treat it (and the law) with some respect!

"Momentary lapse" and "clipping" a rear wheel? With a couple of tonnes of car? Yeah, right.

Good luck to the family and those supporting them in their case. The more pressure we put on the courts to reconsider these pathetic, insulting sentences for killing someone through blatant negligence and disregard the better.

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posted by Simon E [1946 posts]
9th May 2013 - 11:22

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Right then (and as a motorist as well) one incident in which you end up killing someone with your vehicle may indicate anything from poor driving and very bad luck upwards toward homicidal lunacy.

Very few motorists ever kill a cyclist. If you have done it twice (and been convicted of careless or dangerous driving twice ie it's definitely your failt both times) then it is time you weren't allowed to drive ever again.

Jesus H Christ. You would think, would you not, that a driver who has already killed a cyclist and then regained their licence would be THE most careful driver around cyclists. Wouldn't you?

Cycling is like a church - many attend, but few understand.

posted by oozaveared [574 posts]
7th February 2014 - 12:19

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oozaveared wrote:
Right then (and as a motorist as well) one incident in which you end up killing someone with your vehicle may indicate anything from poor driving and very bad luck upwards toward homicidal lunacy.

Very few motorists ever kill a cyclist. If you have done it twice (and been convicted of careless or dangerous driving twice ie it's definitely your failt both times) then it is time you weren't allowed to drive ever again.

Jesus H Christ. You would think, would you not, that a driver who has already killed a cyclist and then regained their licence would be THE most careful driver around cyclists. Wouldn't you?

My thoughts exactly - I'd be so hyper-aware of the possibility of it happening again, that it would border on paranoia.

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3108 posts]
7th February 2014 - 12:55

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