Five years for driver who killed cyclist on A91

Police are searching for missing Robert Johnstone (86)
Police are searching for missing Robert Johnstone (86)

A MOTORIST who killed a cyclist after using her mobile phone while driving then deleted the incriminating call has been jailed for five years.

Julie Watson, 36, deleted a record of the call and phoned 999 in a bid to summon emergency services after she collided with Alistair Speed.

Mhairi Laffoley

My parents died within 12 weeks of the accident. It will never be the same. He was everything to us

The mother-of-two was found guilty of causing the death of Mr Speed, 49, on the A91 road between Strathmiglo and Gateside, in Fife, on September 5 in 2013 by dangerous driving.

She was also convicted of attempting to defeat the ends of justice by deleting a record of a call she made just before the 999 call.

Watson, of Junction Road, Kinross, was on bail throughout her trial at the High Court in Edinburgh but after the jury returned unanimous guilty verdicts the judge told her she now had serious convictions.

On Wednesday, Lord Kinclaven jailed Watson for a total of five years at the High Court in Glasgow.

He told her: “You have demonstrated remorse which I accept is genuine for causing Mr Speed’s death and you are well aware of the devastation that has been caused to Mr Speed’s family and indeed all those who knew him.”

The judge said that while driving, “the use of a mobile phone has the capacity to wreck lives and literally kill.

He added: “Use of a hand held mobile phone is in itself an unlawful act.

“The fact an offender is avoidably distracted by the use of a mobile phone when committing an offence of this sort will always make an offence more serious.”

Watson was also disqualified from driving for 10 years and will have to sit an extended driving test.

Mr Speed, a Tesco supervisor who lived at Canmore Walk, Glenrothes, in Fife, died from severe head injuries in the incident.

He was a long-standing member of Fife Century Road Club and had taken part in his last event the previous day.

Mr Speed’s sister, Mhairi Laffoley, 48, said the effect of the incident on her family had been “horrendous”.

She told the court: “My parents died within 12 weeks of the accident.

‘‘It will never be the same. He was everything to us.

“Alistair started riding his bike on the road as a seven-year-old boy. He started competing as a cyclist from the age of 12. He was a very, very competent cyclist.

“He was very steady. He didn’t take risks.

‘‘I entrusted him to take my son out on his bike from the age of nine and a half.”

Following the collision, passing off-duty firefighters tried to go to the aid of Mr Speed who was left in a large pool of blood.

The court heard that Watson – who has two previous convictions for speeding - was driving her Vauxhall Corsa behind another car driven by her mother.

After the incident, another driver who had stopped spoke to Watson and she said she did not know how she had hit the cyclist because she had seen her mother indicate to pass him.

She told police that “maybe I misjudged the distance I was giving him”.

She said her mobile phone was in the pocket of her jeans and added: “The first time I took the phone out was to phone for an ambulance.”

But evidence was led that a phone call had been made shortly before the 999 call from the device.

Advocate depute Jim Keegan QC said the results of the crash had been “catastrophic”.

The prosecutor said: “The use of a mobile phone, especially calling out, is a conscious, wilful act.

‘‘The use of a phone when driving, a hand-held phone, is an offence.”

Mr Keegan said there was no need to make a call at the time and that there was no emergency at that point.

The prosecutor told jurors that Watson had used her phone, paid no attention to the road and crashed into Mr Speed before trying to cover it up.

Solicitor advocate Gordon Martin said: “She is genuinely remorseful over what happened in September 2013 to the late Mr Speed.”

He added: “She has not worked since the accident simply because she finds it difficult to come to terms with what has happened to Mr Speed.”