Driver in death crash is jailed after lenient sentence overturned

A SPANIARD who was spared a prison sentence for driving on the wrong side of the road and causing the death of an 80-year-old woman in an accident has now been jailed, after an appeal by prosecutors.

Pedro Noche, 38, crashed a truck head-on into a car in which Margaret McIlroy was a passenger. She died while being airlifted to hospital. Four others in the car were injured.

A judge decided Noche did not need to be jailed and ordered him to carry out 300 hours of community service. The Crown took the case to the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh, where it was ruled that the judge had been wrong and that Noche should be sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment.

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The family of Mrs McIlroy, of Port Glasgow, who described her as “the light who kept the family going”, had condemned the original sentence as “insulting” and welcomed the appeal court’s judgment.

“We were not out to get a pound of flesh. We just felt the message [from a community service sentence] was wrong and that it did not reflect the gravity of what happened,” said Sandra Coyle, 56, of Port Glasgow, the dead woman’s daughter.

Mrs McIlroy, who had been widowed in 2009, and her daughter and son-in-law, James Coyle, along with her grandson, James Coyle jnr, and a nine-year-old boy, had been returning from a caravan weekend on 3 May last year when their Citroen Xsara Picasso was struck by a pick-up at a bend on the A714 near Pinwherry, Ayrshire. The truck had been on the wrong side of the road for between a quarter and a half-a-mile.

Noche, of Girvan, Ayrshire, had been living in Scotland for about a month and worked as a team leader for a wind farm company. He was driving the company’s truck at the time of the crash. The occupants of the car had to be cut from the wreckage by the emergency services. Mrs McIlroy suffered internal bleeding and she lapsed into unconsciousness in a helicopter on her way to hospital, and could not be resuscitated.

Noche had performed a U-turn at a lay-by and emerged on to the wrong carriageway. He told police: “I was wrong. I was on the wrong side of the road. The problem was mine, getting orientated on the roads. I was driving like I was in Spain.”

Noche admitted a charge of causing death by dangerous driving, and the judge, Rita Rae QC, said she believed there were exceptional circumstances in the case to justify a non-custodial sentence.

However, the advocate-depute, Alex Prentice QC submitted to the appeal court that the judge had been wrong and that the sentence was unduly lenient.

Lord Mackay, sitting with Lady Smith and Lord Wheatley, said: “The sentence was unduly lenient… only a sentence of imprisonment is appropriate in this case.”