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Gary McCourt, the motorist who has killed two cyclists, will be driving again within five years

Gary McCourt, the Edinburgh motorist twice convicted of kiling a cyclist, will be free to drive again in less than five years' time after the Court of Appeal in Edinburgh rejected an appeal by the Crown against what it beleved was an "unduly lenient" sentence handed down to him in May for causing the death by careless driving of 75-year-old cyclist Audrey Fyfe in 2011.

National cyclists' organisation CTC, which organised a successful petition to ask Scotland's Lord Advocate to appeal the sentence imposed on 49-year-old McCourt - a five-year ban from driving plus 300 hours'  community service - says that it is "extremely disappointed" in the decision, while Mrs Fyfe's daughter Aileen Brown, pictured anbove with her mother, said that the Scottish justice system had failed cyclists.

McCourt insisted that he had merely "clipped" Mrs Fyfe's bike, while the trial judge, Sheriff James Scott, made much of the fact Mrs Fyfe - a cyclist for more than half a century, who had met her husband through their joint love of cycling - hadn't been wearing a helmet, which he believed contributed tto her death.

When McCourt was convicted in April, it emerged that he had been sentenced to a year in prison and banned for driving for ten years in 1986 for causing the death of 22-year-old student George Dalgity through reckless driving.

McCourt had pleaded not guilty to that charge, but pleaded guilty on separate charges of driving without insurance, driving without a full licence and without supervision or licence plates, leaving the scene without exchanging details or reporting the collision to the police, and failing to produce his licence afterwards.

Donald Urquhart, secretary of CTC Scotland said outside the court today: “Whilst it might be considered a success to have persuaded the Crown to lodge an  appeal against the  original sentence, the fact is that someone who has now killed two vulnerable road users with a motor vehicle will be allowed to resume driving in a relatively short time whilst the families and friends of those killed have been permanently affected by his criminal conduct. 

"The authority to drive a motor vehicle is not a right; it is a privilege that comes with the grant of a driving licence. That privilege should be withdrawn when the driving conduct of an individual falls below that which might be reasonably expected and, in particular, when other, more vulnerable road users are affected.

"In this case, two people have been killed by someone who has failed to meet even the most basic standards of driving on two separate occasions but who is still being allowed to resume driving at some point in the near future, something that must be considered a risk and to the detriment of other vulnerable road users.

"That is neither right nor acceptable in a civilised society. ”

The decision comes just weeks after the government, in its response to the Get Britain Cycling report published by the All Partty Parliamentary Cycling Group following a six-week enquiry earlier this year, said it would order a review in the new year of the investigation, prosecution and sentencing in cases where cyclists and other vulnerable road users are the victims.

That was one of the issues discussed by MPs at the Get Brtain Cycling debate in the House of Commons earlier this month.

Mrs Fyfe's daughter Aileen Brown said: “I am lost for words. There was a unanimous vote in parliament earlier this month to strengthen the enforcement of road traffic law, to ensure that driving offences - especially those resulting in death or injury - are treated sufficiently seriously      by police, prosecutors and judges.

"The police here did an admirable job for us but the Scottish  justice system appear to have had complete disregard for government policy.

"Scotland led the way in the smoking ban and minimum pricing on alcohol. The decision to allow Gary McCourt and drivers like him to drive again suggests that the judiciary are frightened to grasp the nettle and make decisions which would make our country a safer place to live."

 

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.