Gary McCourt the Edinburgh man found guilty of causing the death by careless driving of cyclist Audrey Fife in August 2011 has been sentenced to 300 hours community service and banned from driving for five years at the Edinburgh Sheriff Court. After the guilty verdict was returned in the case of Mrs Fife it was revealed that McCourt was also responsible for the death of another cyclist, 22 year-old student, George Dalgity in 1986.
Sentencing McCourt who admitted to police that he had "clipped" Mrs Fife's bike, Sheriff James Scott said that the collision had 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.
According to the BBC Sheriff Scott said he felt able to spare McCourt a prison sentence because there were no aggravating factors, such as drink or drug abuse - although some will surely question whether the fact that this was McCourt's second offence was in itself an aggravating factor.
Sheriff Scot said he also took in to account the fact that McCourt had frequently expressed genuine remorse and that the 47-year old suffered from depression and showed signs of post traumatic stress disorder.
Prior to sentencing Mrs Fife's widower, John had said that jailing McCourt would be a waste of taxpayers money, however as we reported last weekend Mr Dalgity's family felt strongly to the contrary and wrote to the court calling on the Sheriff to impose a stiff sentence.
“It’s been suggested that sending him to jail would be a waste of taxpayers’ money but the four years that George spent at university could be seen as that, too,” she adds. “He never had a chance to use his degree. Never had a chance to live his life,” George Dalgity's sister, Ann told The Scotsman.
There is the possibility that McCourt's sentence could be appealed on the grounds of undue leniency, whether to proceed with such an appeal will be a matter for the procurator fiscal's office, the body that performs a similar role in bringing prosecutions in Scotland as the CPS does in England and Wales.
What can be said with more certainty is that the sentence imposed by this court on a man who has now been convicted of killing two cyclists is sure to reignite the debate about lenient sentencing for drivers who kill cyclists and pedestrians. Last year a coalition of cycling organisations and other road safety groups met with the Helen Grant the Justice Minister with responsibility for victims & the courts to call for a review of sentencing guidelines in such cases. While the minister expressed her support and promised to look in to the matter as yet there has been no further action taken.
Tony has been editing cycling magazines and websites since 1997 starting out as production editor and then deputy editor of Total Bike, acting editor of Total Mountain Bike and then seven years as editor of Cycling Plus. He launched his first cycling website - the Cycling Plus Forum at the turn of the century. In 2006 he left C+ to head up the launch team for Bike Radar which he edited until 2008, when he co-launched the multi-award winning road.cc - which he continues to edit today. His favourite ride is his ‘commute’ - which he does most days inc weekends and he’s been cycle-commuting since 1994. His favourite bikes are titanium and have disc brakes.