Elderly driver who killed mother-of-two cyclist spared jail

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AN ELDERLY DRIVER who caused the death of a mother-of-two taking part in a charity cycle ride while overtaking two vehicles at once on a twisting road was spared jail today - because of his advanced years.

Kenneth McClelland, 78, who suffers from angina and arthritis, was returning with his wife from a caravan holiday, when he overtook a “slow, elderly campervan”, and the car behind it on a mountain pass, ploughing into 49-year-old endurance athlete Sally Preece who was coming the other way on her bike.

The wing mirror of his Volvo S40 R-design D4, which has a reported top speed of over 125 mph, caught Mrs Preece’s handlebars, and then she was caught by the wheel of a bike that McClelland himself was carrying on a rack on the back of his car.

She was thrown more than 30 metres, coming to rest in the middle of the single-carriageway A85 trunk road in Glen Ogle, near Killin, Perthshire.

A motorcyclist found her lying in “a feotal position”.

A doctor and a paramedic tended her on the road, and she was was taken to the Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert, Stirlingshire, where she was pronounced brain stem dead the following afternoon.

Ann Orr, prosecuting, told Stirling Sheriff Court that the driver and passenger of the camper van that McClelland was overtaking had clearly seen Mrs Preece -- who was wearing a bright pink top -- as had the driver of a Renault Clio behind the camper, which he was also overtaking, and as had also a commercial van driver behind McClelland.

Mrs Orr said the driver of the Clio had in fact been planning to overtake just before McClelland did, but abandoned the manoeuvre because she did not think it would have been safe.

The depute fiscal said a investigation revealed Mrs Preece was riding properly towards the middle of the road, travelling north, and should have been clearly visible to McClelland, who was travelling towards Stirling just south of Lix Toll.

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Mrs Orr said: “It was the opinion of both collision investigators that the collision was caused by the accused, who carried out an overtaking manoeuvre by pulling out without checking it was clear to do so.”

Mrs Preece, from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, was a week into the nine day Land’s-End-to-John-O’Groats challenge when the tragedy occurred on September 12th last year (2014).

She had been taking part in the 969-mile Deloitte Ride Across Britain to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society.

The court heard that the day after she was pronounced brain dead, a transplant team removed her organs to help others.

McClelland, a retired civil engineer, of Auchenmaid Drive, Largs, Ayrshire, pleaded guilty in December to causing her death by careless driving. Sentence had to be put off for longer than usual due to a delay in the preparation of a social enquiry report on the elderly man.

Solicitor Alexander Currie, defending, said McClelland, who had a 55-year unblemished driving record before the accident, “tendered his condolences” to Mrs Preece’s family.

He said: “Over the past 14 or 15 months he has only been able to imagine how bereft they are at the loss of their dear one.

“He has no real recollection of passing the Renault. When he did see Mrs Preece it was too late to avoid contact. He was travelling at about 45 miles per hour.

“He will punish himself for the rest of his life for what he has done. A man who was once energetic and easy going is now subdued and introverted, as a direct result of this.”

Sheriff William Gilchrist told McClelland: “These were tragic events, obviously for Mrs Sally Preece, but also for her family. I have read victim impact statements from her husband, her mother and her father, and it is quite clear, as it inevitably would be, that they are suffering terribly as a result of the loss of Sally.

“The consequences of your driving that day were the most serious -- they resulted in a fatality.”

Sheriff Gilchrist said he had to take account of sentencing guidelines, which divided cases of causing death by careless driving into three categories -- momentary inattention, careless driving falling not far short of dangerous, and a middle category, into which, he said, McClelland’s driving fell.

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He said this, together with McClelland’s guilty plea, could have led to a maximum penalty of a short period of imprisonment.

He said: “However, given your age, I do not think it would be appropriate to impose a short period of imprisonment, which would be essentially a matter of weeks.

“”I am therefore going to employ a community disposal, as an alternative to custody.”

He added: “Your failure to see Mrs Preece was not momentary. You should have seen her. Two drivers preceding you saw her, and one driver behind you saw her.

“But I accept there is genuine remorse.”

He sentenced McClelland to carry out 300 hours of unpaid work -- the maximum that could be imposed -- banned him from driving for five years, and ordered him to re-sit his test before ever driving again.

Mrs Preece’s husband Phil and other members of her family were in court to see McClelland sentenced.

Mr Preece looked dumbstruck as the sheriff announced that McClelland would avoid jail, but afterwards he refused to comment on the outcome.

After the death of Mrs Preece, who worked for Lloyds Bank, her family paid tribute to her, saying describing her as “dedicated and cheerful”.

Her sister-in-law Suzette Pennell said: “She was absolutely dedicated to anything she turned her mind to. Her family, her work and her cycling.

“She had put in hours of training for the cycle ride and was raising money for the Alzheimer’s Society.

“She had run several marathons before, and did really well in the London Marathon.

“She gave that up because of arthritis in her feet and started cycling instead.”

Writing on her own page, Mrs Preece had said that she was taking part in the ride because she wanted to challenge herself.

She wrote: ‘As I’ve got older I’ve got worse for accepting challenges! Perhaps call it my perpetual mid-life crisis.

“I suppose it started with black belt in karate, then running the London marathon, and finally because all of the above caused arthritis in my feet, I’ve switched properly to cycling.

“This epic ride is going to be harder than all previous madcap ideas!”

A spokesman for the Lloyds Banking Group said at the time that it was “shocked and saddened” by the tragedy.

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