A West Lothian motorist who hit and killed an oncoming cyclist while turning off an A-road has been ordered to complete 225 hours of community service after pleading guilty to causing death by careless driving. Barry McConnell said he had been “blinded by the sun” as he was turning and that he had failed to see Gwyn Bailey because the cyclist was wearing black and riding in the shadow of a hedge.
On February 27, 2019, McConnell turned right off the A89 near Bangour Village Hospital and into Bailey, who was riding in the opposite direction. He had turned from a filter lane without stopping, cutting the corner as he did so.
Despite the efforts of paramedics, Bailey died at the scene.
Richard Freeman, defending, said McConnell hadn’t seen the cyclist as he had been in the shadow of a hedgerow.
“As a matter of meteorological opinion, his view of the cyclist in question was obscured for the length of that hedgerow because of the shadow, because the cyclist was wearing black clothing, because the cyclist was in a crouched position – and this is no criticism of the cyclist – because the cyclist was in close proximity to the darkest part of the shadow.
“Unfortunately, as he’s turning, he’s turning into the sun, it blinds him and, very unfortunately, he hits the cyclist. The way this offence arose it’s almost like a perfect storm.”
Sheriff Susan Craig said: “I don’t accept any suggestion, if it was being made, that what Mr Bailey was wearing should in any way mitigate any part of his responsibility for what happened that day.
“It’s clear from the photographs that the clothing was entirely appropriate cycling gear and I reject any such suggestion.
“I’m told your sight was dazzled by the sun as you turned the junction, but the other statements in this case suggest that the sun wasn’t particularly bright and others were driving without their face visors.
“The point at which you may have been dazzled was when you started your manoeuvre, but up to that point you should have been able to see Mr Bailey cycling towards you.”
The Daily Record reports that McConnell was originally charged with causing death by dangerous driving but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of causing death by driving without due care and attention.
Craig said the offence was towards the upper end of the scale because McConnell had been on a straight road with a good line of sight in clear conditions and with nothing to obscure his view.
She sentenced him to 225 hours of unpaid work and made him subject to a home curfew for nine months, during which he will be confined to his home from 9pm to 6am Monday to Friday and from 7pm until 7am at weekends.
He was banned from driving for 45 months and must pass an extended driving test before regaining his licence.
He was also fined £1,275 for having no MoT and for having tinted side windows that were almost twice as dark as legally permitted.
Bailey’s widow, Leanne, was upset at the sentence.
“I feel heartbroken for Gwyn, knowing the driver who ended his life still gets to walk free,” she said.
“I know it’s one of the most severe sentences handed out, but a few hours of picking up litter is not justice for killing someone and house arrest doesn’t make any difference right now when the whole country is in lockdown and can’t go anywhere anyway.
“While we’re upset at the sentence I am glad the defence arguments were rightly dismissed – it was utterly disgraceful they were trying to blame Gwyn.
“He took Gwyn’s life. My husband. My daughter’s father. A dear friend to many and a positive member of the community. That driver destroyed our lives.”
Freeman said: “Mr McConnell fully appreciates that anything I say about how he and his family have been affected by this would not even scratch the surface of the depth of loss and pain and suffering that the victim’s family have been going through but I still think it’s important that it’s heard how much this has affected him.”
Freeman said McConnell had had trouble sleeping and had suffered from spells of anxiety.
“I appreciate that no sentence will ever bring the victim back or offer any consolation to his family but the circumstances of this case are that it was something that was very tragic borne out of restricted visibility.”