A WIDOWER today called for a motorist who knocked down and killed his wife of 51 years as she rode her bike to be spared jail.
John Fyfe made the plea for mercy despite being “absolutely shocked” to learn that Gary McCourt had a previous conviction for causing death by reckless driving.
But the 81-year-old said that McCourt should be banned from driving for life to prevent there being a “third victim”.
McCourt, 49, was convicted at Edinburgh Sheriff Court yesterday of causing the death of 75-year-old Audrey Fyfe by careless driving, following a four-day trial.
Moments after he was found guilty by a majority, the court learned that McCourt had been convicted of a similar offence in 1986.
Mrs Fyfe died two days after being struck by McCourt at the junction between Portobello Road and Craigentinny Avenue on August 9, 2011.
Speaking at his home in Coillesdene Crescent, Joppa, Mr Fyfe said: “I went each day to the trial and I had no idea McCourt had this previous conviction until the procurator fiscal read it out. I was absolutely shocked.
“It made me more thankful that he did not get away with it. I heard all the evidence and I didn’t think a responsible-thinking person could have any hesitation in finding him guilty.
“But I don’t want him to go to jail. It’s not going to bring Audrey back. Hopefully he will be given a community sentence where he has to put something productive back into society. I don’t see the point of sending him to prison and costing a huge amount of money when he can give help to the community instead.
“But I do believe he should be banned from driving for life. He had already taken one life and obviously didn’t learn to be careful before he did it again. I think he’s exhausted his chances and I can see no logical reason for leniency.
“I’ve no sympathy for him in that way, and I wouldn’t want there to be a third victim. He’s clearly a pretty irresponsible person. None of us are infallible, but a car can be a weapon in the wrong hands and he has demonstrated that he cannot be trusted on the roads.”
Mr Fyfe, a retired British Rail worker, met his wife at a city cycling club and they married in 1960. Both keen cyclists, they would go on family trips most weekends.
The couple have two children, Aileen, 48, and Linda, 46, and two grandchildren, Craig, 18, and Iona, 15.
Mr Fyfe said the close-knit family had struggled to come to terms with their loss, and he still vividly recalls the last time he spoke to his wife.
He said: “Audrey was going to visit our daughter in Willowbrae. She had spent the day putting out the washing and doing the ironing. It was a lovely sunny day and then she said, ‘That’s me, I’m off to Linda’s’. I didn’t know that was the last time I would ever speak to her.
“I was out in the garden when the police came round to tell me what happened. We went to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary where Audrey was lying on a trolley and unable to speak. Then she was taken to the Western General because it was a head injury.
“She was on medication from a hip-joint operation which thinned her blood so that made things difficult. The doctors said she had bleeding on the brain.
“She died two days after it happened. It was devastating for the family and difficult because we never got to say goodbye.”
The court had heard how McCourt, of Niddrie Mill Avenue, admitted to police that he had “clipped” Mrs Fyfe’s back wheel. Sheriff James Scott deferred sentence on McCourt until May 3.
THE ROAD TO STIFFER PENALTIES
THE charge of causing death by careless driving was introduced in 2008 and carries a maximum five-year sentence.
Previously, motorists who caused a death might have found themselves charged with careless driving, an offence which did not take into account that someone had died. That carried only a fine.
For causing death by dangerous driving, the minimum disqualification period is 12 months.
The Sentencing Guidelines Council recommends community penalties in cases where drivers kill someone through “momentary inattention”.
Road safety groups had called for tougher sentences for drivers who kill. Current laws mean that someone convicted of death by dangerous driving can be sentenced to 14 years in prison.
Gary McCourt, who was convicted of reckless or dangerous driving in 1986, will have that charge considered as an aggravating factor when he is sentenced for causing the death of Audrey Fyfe through careless driving.