Judge cites lack of bike helmet as contributory factor in death crash

by Carlton Reid
3 May 2013

Source: BikeBiz

75 year old killed on her bike was hit by a driver who had killed another cyclist in 1986. Driver gets community service.

Gary McCourt, 49, from Edinburgh has been sentenced for causing the death of a elderly cyclist in Edinburgh in 2011.

Gary McCourt, 49, from Edinburgh has been sentenced for causing the death of a elderly cyclist in Edinburgh in 2011.

Gary McCourt, 49, from Edinburgh has been sentenced for causing the death of a elderly cyclist in Edinburgh in 2011. He received a sentence of 300 hours of community service, and a five year driving ban. During his trial it was revealed he had killed a cyclist in 1985. For that crime (his guilt compounded by fleeing from the scene) he received a year in jail and a ten year driving ban.

McCourt admitted to police he had “clipped” the back wheel of Audrey Fyfe, 75, at a junction in 2011. In 1986 McCourt was jailed after killing George Dalgity, 22, a geography student from Edinburgh, who was killed while he cycled along the city’s Regent Road.

Sheriff James Scott said he would not send McCourt to prison for his second killing of a cyclist because there were no aggravating factors, such as drink or drug abuse. He said the collision between McCourt and Mrs Fyfe was caused because he had “momentarily” lost concentration.

Sherriff Scott said “Mrs Fyffe wasn’t to blame in any way for the accident. He added: “However, she was not wearing a safety helmet and that in my view contributed to her death.”

This despite the fact the only thing which contributed to her death was the atrocious driving of a motorist who had already killed once before.

Last month, Scotsman columnist Gina Davidson, wrote:

“Whether you cycle or not, you should support [cyclists]. For we are all pedestrians and therefore all vulnerable to bad drivers who speed, who don’t use their mirrors and who gamble every time they see an amber light. They’re not picky about who they hurt.

“I’m not a cyclist. I tried once for a week… I hated it – navigating Princes Street and the buses was terrifying. But cycling is part of the future of this city. If we want it to be the kind of place where you can breathe easily and wander pleasantly then our roads need to be made safer for all…

“That’s as much in the hands of the courts as the politicians. McCourt’s sentence should send a very loud, very clear message.”

The court’s eventual message sent out a very strong message: cyclists, it’s partly your fault if you die at the hands of a killer driver.

However, McCourt may be recalled to court: a Crown Office spokesperson said:

“Crown Counsel will give careful consideration as to whether the sentence was unduly lenient.”

Councilor Andrew Burns, Leader of the City of Edinburgh Council, blogged about the case, saying it was “truly appalling” and that the sentence was “a complete disgrace.”

He added: “I’m pleased to hear that the Crown Office is giving careful consideration as to whether it was unduly lenient. But – equally as appalling, to me, are the Sheriff’s comments [about helmets].”

In 2010 Sheriff Scott allowed a 90-year old to continue driving despite the fact she hit a cyclist head-on in broad daylight. The cyclist was wearing hi-vis clothing and was badly injured. Sherriff Scott fined the driver £200 and endorsed her license with six points but did not give her a driving ban. Her name? Lady Risk, wife of Sir Thomas Risk, former Governor of the Bank of Scotland.