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Driver jailed for two-and-a-half years for killing one cyclist and seriously injuring another blamed victims for “not riding in single file”

Arthur Robert McGrillen also failed to declare that he had suffered a stroke when renewing his driving licence a year before the fatal collision

A pensioner who blamed two cyclists for “not riding in single file” after driving into them, killing one and seriously injuring another, has been sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison.

74-year-old Arthur Robert McGrillen, who initially denied seeing Aidan Fitzpatrick and Ralph Mills before hitting them from behind in October 2019, later changed his story to claim that the cyclists were in fact at fault for the collision, telling police that they were “too wide on the road” and that he “went to go around them and they bumped on top of my car”, the BBC reports.

McGrillen pleaded not guilty to the charges of causing death and grievous bodily harm by dangerous driving in February this year, but changed his plea in May after footage from Mr Mills’ rear-facing bike camera and dashcam footage from a passing ambulance showed that the motorist had “taken no steps whatsoever to avoid a full-on, nose-to-tail collision” before “ploughing straight into” the cyclists.

Prosecution counsel Ciaran Murphy KC also told Downpatrick Crown Court that the 74-year-old should not have been driving on the road at the time of the fatal collision, as he had failed to disclose that he had suffered a stroke in 2017 when renewing his licence the following year.

Motorist “drove through the cyclists without making any attempt to avoid them”

Aidan Fitzpatrick and Ralph Mills, members of La Lanterne Rouge Cycling Club, were riding on the Killyleagh Road in Downpatrick, Co. Down, at 2pm on 20 October 2019, when they were struck from behind by McGrillen.

Both victims were taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, where Mr Fitzpatrick, a 59-year-old father of five, died from his injuries three days later. Speaking at the sentencing this week, Judge Geoffrey Miller said that Mr Fitzpatrick’s death had caused “unbearable pain for his widow and family”.

Mr Mills was also seriously injured in the collision, which the judge said has left him in “constant pain, with survivor’s guilt and a joyless outlook on life”.

Prosecutor Ciaran Murphy told the court, sitting in Belfast, that McGrillen “drove through the cyclists without making any attempt to avoid them”.

The motorist told a police officer at the scene that he “didn’t see” the cyclists before the collision. However, he later claimed that the victims were to blame for the crash, telling police that they were “too wide on the road... were not riding in single file” and that he “went to go around them and they bumped on top of my car”.

After initially denying the charges, it took until May this year – over two-and-a-half years after the incident – for McGrillen to admit that he was at fault for the collision and to plead guilty to causing death by dangerous driving and causing grievous bodily harm. The 74-year-old, who appeared in court via video link from Maghaberry prison, “expressed remorse and hurt” for the victims and their families.

“A true gentleman”

The court was also told that misleading information supplied by Mr McGrillen when he was renewing his driving licence in 2018 was an aggravating factor in the collision.

Mr Murphy said that the pensioner had suffered a stroke in 2017, but had failed to declare the condition on his paperwork the following year. When asked if he suffered from any illnesses, including a stroke, which could affect his entitlement or ability to drive, McGrillen had answered “no”.

“Had he made a disclosure about his medical condition prior to the accident, we say it is reasonable to conclude that his licence would have been revoked,” Murphy told Downpatrick Crown Court.

“This is an aggravating feature in that had he made the appropriate disclosures he would not have been driving and the collision would not have occurred.”

Judge Miller said that the motorist’s actions, captured on the victim’s bike camera and dashcam footage, “amounts to an exceptionally bad piece of driving which resulted in a fatality and serious injury. I am satisfied that this amounts to an aggravating feature of dangerousness in this case.

“He first blamed the cyclists and claimed he was not at fault. Had it not been shown in Mr Mills’ camera footage, he might have persisted in this lie.”

McGrillen was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison, with a further 30 months on a supervised licence following his release from custody. He also received a four-year concurrent sentence for causing grievous bodily injury, and has been banned from driving for life.

At the time of his death, Aidan Fitzpatrick was described by La Lanterne Rouge Cycling Club as “much loved by his cycling friends. He was a true gentleman and it was an absolute privilege to know him. He will be very sadly missed by us all.”

Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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47 comments

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northstar | 1 year ago
0 likes

Pathetic 🤦🏻‍♀️

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northstar | 1 year ago
0 likes

Pathetic 🤦🏻‍♀️

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northstar | 1 year ago
0 likes

Pathetic 🤦🏻‍♀️

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northstar | 1 year ago
0 likes

Pathetic 🤦🏻‍♀️

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peted76 | 1 year ago
6 likes

Prime example of the lack of empathy one driving human has to other cycling humans. The contempt the driver has demonstrated to his victims thereafter is morally so wrong and only changed his defence once he knew he'd been proved lying. 

What a scumbag, this is too lienient of a sentence, as it's proven he is dangerous and has contempt for the law, they should give him the maximum punishments and certainly never let him own a licence again.

 

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Bungle_52 | 1 year ago
9 likes

“He first blamed the cyclists and claimed he was not at fault. Had it not been shown in Mr Mills’ camera footage, he might have persisted in this lie.”

My takeaway from this sad story is to ride with a camera whenever you can. In this case it has helped take a dangerous driver off the road and hopefully inspired any driver reading this to be more careful around cyclists. I hope this gives some solace to Mr Mills and Mr Fitzpatrick's loved ones.

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Hirsute replied to Bungle_52 | 1 year ago
5 likes

Certainly disproves the narative that cyclists only film to look for trouble or to post to youtube.

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BalladOfStruth replied to Hirsute | 1 year ago
8 likes

Yup. Contrary to the troll's assertion that only drivers have a reasonable excuse for using dashcams, and that any cyclists with cameras are simply narcissists trying to get clicks on YouTube, this shows how useful camera footage is for cyclists.

I’d actually say that, due to anti-cycling bias in the police and justice system, it makes more sense for a cyclist to run cameras than any other road user.  

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OnYerBike | 1 year ago
7 likes

I think it tells you all you need to know about the ridiculous state of road crime sentencing that he got less time for killing someone (because it was treated as a driving offence) than he did for injuring someone (because that was prosecuted as an offence against the person).

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Muddy Ford | 1 year ago
7 likes

I think he did it on purpose because they were riding 2 abreast which he had considered a punishable offence. The fact that he recalls they were riding 2 abreast, 2yrs later pretty much says it has played on his mind all this time. Evil c''t that deserves to die slowly and painfully.  

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ShutTheFrontDawes | 1 year ago
3 likes

The maximum sentence for death by dangerous driving is an appallingly low 5 years. I think the 2 year sentence in this case is difficult to understand given the aggravating factors involved (and seeming lack of mitigating factors), but I expect the sentence is in line with guidelines as judges do tend to follow the guidelines when calculating the sentence. The issue is that the guidelines are appealing.

Does anyone know if there is a process for changing sentencing guidelines? Can I write to my MP for instance?

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IanMSpencer replied to ShutTheFrontDawes | 1 year ago
2 likes

The maximum sentence is defined by statute. The guidelines are set by the Sentencing Council and they are independent of Government though they are responsible to the Ministry of Justice, their primary allegiance is supposed to be to the judiciary.

If you believe sentencing is wrong, then I think the process is indeed to contact your MP. They can then make representations to the department of Justice. I would then expect that in the event of a change being recognised the choice is to take Parliamentary time to change the law, the alternative is that if it is believed that the problem is the guidelines themselves then the department of justice could make representations to the Council to review them, but cannot impose changes.

Worth contacting your MP, ideally with factual examples. You could also give them some helpful questions to ask, like, how many people are imprisoned for causing the death of another person while driving compared with other forms of killing? They, or more likely, their office, can then pass that question on and some minion in the appropriate department will then brush off the request (which may be used against them in future), but over time it might help set the mindset of MPs and create some momentum for improvement.

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Sriracha replied to IanMSpencer | 1 year ago
4 likes

There has to come a point at which killing with a vehicle crosses the line from dangerous driving to murder. Obviously people who deliberately drive trucks into crowds of people are not charged with a motoring offence, for example.

In this case the driver, eventually, admitted that he knew the cyclists were there (he did see them), and moreover that he was riled by their demeanour (cycling two abreast, getting in his way).

It seems quite possible that he lost control of himself rather than control of his car, and it travelled the course he intended, which he knew, because he could see them, would endanger the cyclists.

Maybe that is still not enough to charge him with murder - he thought they would end up in the ditch and learn their lesson, etc. But is it not enough to achieve the maximum penalty available under DBDD?

It just seems to me the law fails to distinguish between the reckless driver who misjudges his abilities and ends up colliding with people, and this one who I think hit the cyclists intentionally.

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OnYerBike replied to Sriracha | 1 year ago
2 likes

There's also manslaughter, which has higher maximum sentences than DBBD but doesn't require the same intent as murder.

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chrisonabike replied to OnYerBike | 1 year ago
0 likes

If I recall Inspector Kevin Smith was on here some time back giving some insight into the requirements of different charges.  I can't recall if it was manslaughter or GBH but one of the suggested ones is apparently a surprisingly difficult one to get evidence for which will pass the CPS, never mind fly in court.  So without law changes at a deeper level might be less useful than it might appear.

For reference CPS legal guidance on murder and manslaughter (several varieties) here:

https://www.cps.gov.uk/legal-guidance/homicide-murder-and-manslaughter

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Rendel Harris replied to ShutTheFrontDawes | 1 year ago
7 likes
ShutTheFrontDawes wrote:

The maximum sentence for death by dangerous driving is an appallingly low 5 years.

It's not, it's fourteen years with an option for a life sentence for aggravating factors such as being under the influence of drink or drugs; death by careless driving is a maximum five years. The problem's not with the available sentences but with the reluctance of the courts (and the sentencing guidelines) to impose them.

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mattw replied to ShutTheFrontDawes | 1 year ago
2 likes

GBH by Dangerous Drivers is 5 years max,

As pointed out by Shut DD is 14 years.

Perhaps more interesting, if I read this right, is that the defendant received a longer prison sentence (4 years) for the GBH by Dangerous Driving than for the Death by Dangerous Driving (30 months). Really?

Also, this, from the linked report:

Judge Geoffrey Miller QC yesterday expressed frustration, noting that proceedings in the case began in October 2019.

"It is a matter of grave concern to me that for the 17th occasion the family have been in attendance, some of whom have travelled considerable distances, in the expectation that matters would reach a conclusion," he said.

"Once more, having built themselves up to that expectation, it appear that those expectations are going to be dashed."

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brooksby | 1 year ago
3 likes

More and more, I'm glad I don't ride a bike on the island of Ireland...

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Christopher TR1 | 1 year ago
1 like

scumbag. Let's hope he has such a horrible time in prison that he kills himself.

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Cyclist against... | 1 year ago
5 likes

I have insisted for along time that drivers upon reaching a certain age should be on an automatic driving ban until they've taken a modrrn day driving test AND had a full medical including an eye test , the results of which then get passed onto the DVLA and if they are deemed ok to drive , their licence is reinstated, and lets not forget that alot of elderly drivers have never taken a theory test which nowadays is an essential secondary to the driving test. I know many youngsters are a danger on the roads and some think they're Max Verstappen , but elderly drivers are also a danger to cyclists , and pedestrians as in the case we read about.

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Sriracha replied to Cyclist against anti cyclist morons | 1 year ago
7 likes

Despite the references made to his age and medical history there is nothing to suggest any of this was instrumental. I do wonder however, with age often comes something of the Alf Garnett curmudgeonliness which could distort his judgement over how to negotiate the situation where he perceives the cyclists to be antagonistically in the wrong. In other words, I'm betting he did it on purpose, but getting him to admit it would be like the court scene from A Few Good Men.

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OnYerBike replied to Sriracha | 1 year ago
2 likes

Prosecutor Ciaran Murphy said "Had he made a disclosure about his medical condition prior to the accident, we say it is reasonable to conclude that his licence would have been revoked".

It's possible it wasn't hugely important, but for the prosecution to make this statement is something to suggest it was at least partially relevant.

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hawkinspeter replied to OnYerBike | 1 year ago
4 likes
OnYerBike wrote:

Prosecutor Ciaran Murphy said "Had he made a disclosure about his medical condition prior to the accident, we say it is reasonable to conclude that his licence would have been revoked".

It's possible it wasn't hugely important, but for the prosecution to make this statement is something to suggest it was at least partially relevant.

I'd consider it hugely important as he shouldn't have been driving at all.

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Sriracha replied to hawkinspeter | 1 year ago
2 likes

Of course, but the context of my original comment has now been lost. I said his medical history, like his age, did not appear to be the cause of the collision. He didn't suffer a "medical episode" at the wheel, there was no suggestion of any palsy etc. My comment was in reply to the suggestion that people over a certain age should be re-tested. I don't think that would have made any difference here - the collision was not an accident.

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hawkinspeter replied to Sriracha | 1 year ago
4 likes
Sriracha wrote:

Of course, but the context of my original comment has now been lost. I said his medical history, like his age, did not appear to be the cause of the collision. He didn't suffer a "medical episode" at the wheel, there was no suggestion of any palsy etc. My comment was in reply to the suggestion that people over a certain age should be re-tested. I don't think that would have made any difference here - the collision was not an accident.

Fair enough. I'm all for removing as many poor drivers from the roads as possible, so using a medical condition that has been known to affect driving to get him off the road makes sense to me. To my mind, it demonstrates a certain selfishness and lack of concern about other people to deliberately continue driving when being possibly unfit.

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Sriracha replied to hawkinspeter | 1 year ago
4 likes

I do, however, think age is relevant to this case. I've already mention the Alf Garnett thing, what I think of as the bigotry of age. I'm sure most will have noticed that some older people become less tolerant and increasingly bigoted in their views. The driver here was clearly riled by the cyclists being two abreast and in his way etc. Did he decide to teach them a lesson? Did he just think they should get out of his way or - more fool them - suffer the consequences? That's not a loss of control of the car, it's not an accident. Anyway, I've found a link which seems to support the idea that people do become more bigoted with age, it's not just my imagination:
https://www.vox.com/2016/7/1/12051622/brexit-vote-age-gap-aging-science-...

Quote:

Von Hippel finds that older adults generally want to be fair and restrain prejudicial thoughts. But they literally just can’t control themselves, which Von Hippel suspects is the result of the deterioration of the brain that comes with aging.

“A lot of research shows that older adults suffer losses in their ability to inhibit unwanted thoughts,” Von Hippel writes me in an email. “We have found that older adults who try to prevent stereotypes from influencing their judgment typically find that they rely on them more and more as they age. … 

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hawkinspeter replied to Sriracha | 1 year ago
2 likes
Sriracha wrote:

I do, however, think age is relevant to this case. I've already mention the Alf Garnett thing, what I think of as the bigotry of age. I'm sure most will have noticed that some older people become less tolerant and increasingly bigoted in their views. The driver here was clearly riled by the cyclists being two abreast and in his way etc. Did he decide to teach them a lesson? Did he just think they should get out of his way or - more fool them - suffer the consequences? That's not a loss of control of the car, it's not an accident. Anyway, I've found a link which seems to support the idea that people do become more bigoted with age, it's not just my imagination: https://www.vox.com/2016/7/1/12051622/brexit-vote-age-gap-aging-science-...

I'd agree about old people that get stuck in their ways although there are some notable exceptions - they tend to be people that have always had a "questioning" type of mind (e.g. Cliff Stoll is an example that springs to mind https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3V84Bi-mzQM). I've encountered lots of aggressive motorists, so I can readily believe that some old codger would decide to hit people in a fit of anger. I don't particularly mind if an older person drives along known routes at a reduced speed to mitigate their slower reactions, but there's no need for aggressive drivers with reduced impulse control.

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mike the bike replied to Cyclist against anti cyclist morons | 1 year ago
2 likes
Cyclist against anti cyclist morons wrote:

...... and lets not forget that alot of elderly drivers have never taken a theory test which nowadays is an essential secondary to the driving test.

Oh yes they did.  It was verbal and not computer generated but it involved knowing road signs and answering questions on aspects of the HC.  

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TheBillder replied to mike the bike | 1 year ago
3 likes
mike the bike wrote:
Cyclist against anti cyclist morons wrote:

...... and lets not forget that alot of elderly drivers have never taken a theory test which nowadays is an essential secondary to the driving test.

Oh yes they did.  It was verbal and not computer generated but it involved knowing road signs and answering questions on aspects of the HC.  

Three questions in about 60 seconds in both my tests (car and motorcycle). Close to pointless.

Which makes me realise that there could be a category on Pointless: "We gave 100 people 100 seconds to correctly describe rules in the highway code". But it would be far too easy to get "the all-important pointless answer".

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mike the bike | 1 year ago
14 likes

All of the above is tragic but I am at least gratified to read, possibly for the first time in my life, that McGrillen was banned from driving for life.  We need more judges like Miller.

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