A driver was spared jail after hitting and killing a 75-year-old cyclist because, the judge said, his 'lapse of concentration' could have happened to anyone.
Peter Barraclough, 30, from East Cowton, admitted a charge of death by careless driving, and said that he had momentarily taken his eyes off the road to look at a lorry coming the other way on the A19 in Thirsk last August.
He hit and killed Leonard Grayson, 75, who was taking part in a 100-mile time trial, but it wasn't until he stopped that he realised he hadn't just hit a bird.
Grayson was 83 miles into the time trial, which he had completed at an average speed of 20mph - an indication of his level of skill as a rider.
According to the Northern Echo, defence barrister, Ian West, told Teesside Crown Court that it was a case of "there but for the grace of God go I", adding: "It's the sort of accident that could happen to anybody".
Police accident investigators said Barraclough would have seen Mr Grayson for at least nine seconds, but the driver admitted he had been looking at a low loader lorry on the opposite carriageway just before the collision.
Witness reports said Barraclough was heard to say at the roadside: "It was a split-second thing. I'm going to jail". He added in a police interview that he had seen signs warning motorists of cyclists taking part in the time trial.
Judge Peter Bowers said Barraclough was a "decent", "outstanding" man, but added his driving fell "substantially below what was acceptable."
He also said that Mr Grayson was "one of the best top veterans in this country." He added: "It is clearly a devastating life-shattering event for his family.
"There are always two tragedies in cases like this. By far the greatest is the victim of this."
Barraclough was given a five-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, ordered to do 250 hours of unpaid work, and banned from driving for 18 months.
At the end of last year, in response to representations from cycling organisations and other road safety bodies, Justice Minister, Helen Grant said that the government would look at the issue of sentencing guidelines in cases where drivers kill or seriously injure cyclists or other vulnerable road users. Earlier this year the All Party Cycling Group of MPs also urged a review of sentencing guidelines as part of its Get Britain Cycling Report.
That there is a wide disparity in sentences handed out for driving offences resulting in the death or serious injury of cyclists was further underlined last month when the Crown Office in Scotland announced that it would appeal the "unduly lenient" sentence given to Gary McCourt for causing the death by careless driving of 75 year-old Audrey Fyfe.
McCourt was a repeat offender having served a prison sentence for causing the death of another cyclist, George Dalgity in 1985. McCourt was sentenced to 300 hours community service and a five year driving ban for causing Mrs Fyfe's death.
After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.