Scotland's Crown Office is to appeal the "unduly lenient" sentence handed down to motorist Gary McCourt for causing the death of cyclist Audrey Fife in August 2011, who it emerged was the second cyclist he had killed while driving.
McCourt's sentence, 300 hours community service and a five year driving ban, came despite calls for a custodial sentence from the families of both the cyclists he had killed.
Mrs Fyfe's widower, John described the sentence as "beyond comprehension" and national cyclists' organisation, the CTC said it "scandalous" and launched a campaign for the sentence to be reviewed, 6000 people wrote to the Lord Advocate's office calling for the Crown to Appeal.
In a statement announcing news of the appeal, the Crown Office said:
"In cases of a serious nature, Crown Counsel will often consider whether the sentence imposed is within the range available to the sheriff in the exercise of his or her discretion.
"Following careful consideration of the facts and circumstances of the case against Gary McCourt by Crown Counsel, we can confirm that the Crown will be lodging an appeal against the sentence on the grounds that it was unduly lenient.
"The family of Mrs Fyfe have been kept advised of this decision and we will continue to update them as to any significant developments in the appeal process.
After his conviction and prior to sentencing it was revealed that McCourt had previously served a prison sentence for causing the death of another cyclist, George Dalgity in 1985. However, when sentencing McCourt earlier this month Sheriff James Scott did not choose to regard McCourt's earlier conviction as an aggravating factor worthy of influencing the sentence he handed down for causing Mrs Fyfe's death. It was the Sheriff's view that the collision occurred when McCourt "momentarily" lost concentration and that while "Mrs Fife wasn't in any way to blame for the accident" in his view the fact that she wasn't wearing a helmet contributed to her death. McCourt had admitted to police that he had "clipped" Mrs Fife's bike.
As part of the appeal process Sheriff Scott will now have to submit a report outlining why he thought 300 hours of community service and a five year driving ban was an appropriate sentence for a second offence resulting in the death of a cyclist through dangerous driving.
The leniency of the sentence caused outraged comment amongst both the cycling community and in the Scottish media with many questioning not only the non-custodial nature of the sentence but the fact that McCourt was given a five year driving ban rather than a life ban given that two fatalities were directly attributable to his poor driving. Writing on the website earlier this week, Mrs Fyfe's daughter, Aileen Brown made the point that driving is not a right and that sentencing policy needed to reflect that.
Speaking for the CTC, which backed the Fyfe family in seeking an appeal of the sentence with a letter writing campaign, Donald Urquhart, Secretary of CTC Scotland, said: “The decision of the Crown to appeal the sentence is welcomed by CTC/CTC Scotland and is, we believe, a reflection of the significant levels of concern expressed by cyclists of the leniency of the original sentence. It is essential that the Courts provide an appropriate degree of protection to all vulnerable road users and that that is reflected in the sentences handed down when careless and dangerous driving has been proved.”
Plucked from the obscurity of his London commute back in the mid-Nineties to live in Bath and edit bike mags our man made the jump to the interweb back in 2006 as launch editor of a large cycling website somewhat confusingly named after a piece of navigational equipment. He came up with the idea for road.cc mainly to avoid being told what to do… Oh dear, issues there then. Tony tries to ride his bike every day and if he doesn't he gets grumpy, he likes carbon, but owns steel, and wants titanium. When not on his bike or eating cake Tony spends his time looking for new ways to annoy the road.cc team. He's remarkably good at it.