Scotland’s Crown Office has announced that a date has been set for the appeal against the sentence of Gary McCourt, the driver responsible for killing cyclist Audrey Fyfe in August 2011.
In a brief announcement on its website, the Crown Office said: “The Crown can today confirm that a date has been set for the hearing of the sentence appeal in the case against Gary McCourt. The hearing will take place on 6 August 2013 at the Appeal Court at Lawnmarket, Edinburgh.”
At a hearing in April, McCourt, 49, was found guilty of causing the death of Audrey Fyfe, 75. McCourt hit the back wheel of her bike in Edinburgh and she died two days later.
McCourt was handed a five-year ban from driving and ordered to do 300 hours community service, a sentence that prosecutors are now appealing as “unduly lenient”.
At the end of McCourt’s trial it emerged that he had been convicted of causing another cyclist’s death by reckless driving in 1985. After being found guilty of causing the death of George Dalgity, McCourt was sentenced to two years in prison, though George Dalgity’s family believe he served just eight months.
However, when sentencing McCourt 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.
The sentence led to an outcry in the cycling community and the Scottish media. Mrs Fyfe's widower, John described the sentence as "beyond comprehension" and national cyclists' organisation, the CTC said it was "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.
Writing on road.cc, Audrey Fife’s daughter Aileen Brown argued strongly that driving is not a right, and that sentencing for drivers who “demonstrate that they are either unable or unwilling to drive without consideration for other road users” should reflect that.
In April, the family of George Dalgity added their voices to demands that Gary McCourt should receive a more severe sentence.
“We don’t want to intrude on the grief of the Fyfe family, and we hope they will not be further hurt, but we do believe that he [McCourt] should receive a very stiff sentence this time around. That’s two people he has killed through careless driving – we don’t want there to be a third and it would seem he didn’t learn his lesson,” George’s younger sister Ann told Edinburgh Evening News.
The announcement of the appeal date comes as figures reveal an increase in casualty figures in Scotland for pedestrians and cyclists.
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.