Driver who killed cyclist escapes jail sentence

Community service for driver who hit cyclist from behind at 2am

A man convicted of causing the death of a cyclist by careless driving has walked free from a Scottish court after being handed a sentence of 300 hours community service and a four-year driving ban.

Alastair Dudgeon died after being hit by James Sneddon's Vauxhall Astra at about 2am on January 6, 2013 near the Kincardine Bridge in Fife.

According to The Scotsman's Dave Finlay, the High Court in Edinburgh was told on Monday that Mr Dudgeon, from High Valleyfield, Fife, regularly cycled to and from his work as a baker at a Tesco store in Camelon, on the outskirts of Falkirk.

He sustained a broken neck, rib fractures and internal injuries, including to the aorta — the main artery from the heart — when he was hit from behind by Sneddon.

Sneddon denied the charge of causing death by dangerous driving, and was found guilty of the lesser offence of causing death by careless driving.

One witness told the court that weather conditions were clear and visibility was reasonable even though the riad was not lit.

A police constable estimated he could see the flashing rear light on Dudgeon's bike from about 200 metres away as he drove to the scene.

Prosecuting, advocate depute Bruce Erroch reminded the court that the Highway Code told drivers to give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as when overtaking a car.

He told jurors that if they thought Mr Dudgeon had contributed in some way to his death by not wearing a high-visibility jacket, that was not something that absolved Sneddon. He said what mattered was that the driver should have seen Dudgeon well before the collision and taken steps to avoid him.

Defence counsel Emma Toner said Sneddon had expressed genuine remorse for having been the cause of Dudgeon's family's loss.

Sentencing Sneddon, judge Nigel Morrison said: “The death of Alastair Dudgeon at the age of 51 is a tragedy for his family.”

Mr Dudgeon’s widow was “devastated” by the loss, he said, but he was taking into accoount the lack of aggravating factors such as deliberate course of bad driving, drinking or using a mobile phone.

He noted that Sneddon had been assessed as posing a very low risk of re-offending.

Sneddon's sentence is within the recommended sentencing range (see page 15) for causing death through careless or inconsiderate driving arising from momentary inattention with no aggravating factors.

Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined road.cc in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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