Shocking catalogue of speeding of driver who killed two women in Kirkcaldy

18-year-old Abby Hucknall died in the collision
18-year-old Abby Hucknall died in the collision

A speeding driver who fatally injured two women pedestrians in Kirkcaldy was discovered to have flouted speed limits at least 80 times in the weeks before the deaths in a powerful 4X4 vehicle.

James Clunie was driving a Land Rover Discovery when he collided with Jane MacDonald and Abby Hucknall at a crossing point on Dunnikier Way as they made their way to the Asda supermarket to buy groceries.

Clunie (36) who has previous speeding offences and driving bans, was supplied with the vehicle as a replacement car provided through his insurance company.

But the 4X4 was fitted with a tracker device which monitored its speed and data revealed that in the five weeks he had it before the fatal crash he drove at speeds of up to 115 mph and at more than treble the speed limit in a residential area in a village.

A judge told Clunie at the High Court in Edinburgh: “It is plain I have been given a description of utterly shocking conduct.”

Lord Turnbull told him: “You have a significant record of prior offending under the Road Traffic legislation and other convictions which demonstrate a surprising breadth of anti-social conduct never to have resulted in a custodial sentence.

“It is clear that over a period of more than a month before this incident you consistently drove in a truly shocking manner that involved driving in the dark at speeds of up to 115 mph and on one occasion at least at a speed of 72 mph in a residential area with a speed limit of 20 mph,” he said.

During the lead up to the fatal crash the Land Rover was seen to “roll and bounce” as it took traffic calming bumps at speed and one witness described the driver as an idiot.

Clunie, a mechanic, of Laurel Crescent, Kirkcaldy, admitted causing the death of mother-of-three Ms MacDonald (37), and Ms Hucknall (18), by careless driving on November 27, 2012 after driving at excessive speed on Dunnikier Way.

He had originally faced a charge of causing their deaths by dangerous driving which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment. The charge which he pled guilty to carries a maximum term of five years.

Clunie also admitted driving dangerously on various occasions between October 25 and November 27 in 2012 by driving at grossly excessive speed at various locations in Fife including Kirkcaldy, East Wemyss at the A92 at Cowdenbeath and Cardenden and on the M8 motorway in North Lanarkshire.

The court heard that he had been banned from the road on three previous occasions and had his licence endorsed for speeding and using a hand held mobile phone while driving.

Advocate depute John Scullion QC told the court that on October 23 Clunie took possession of the Land Rover which was supplied by a hire fleet firm as a replacement car provided by his insurers.

The prosecutor said that all the firm’s vehicles were fitted with a GPS tracking device which monitored location and speed among other things at five-minute intervals.

After the fatal crash data was recovered from it which showed that Clunie had broken the speed limit at least 80 times in the period leading up to the deaths.

Within two days of getting the Land Rover he had hit 105 mph on a stretch of road at Glenrothes which had a 70 mph limit. The same day it was travelling at 72 mph in Main Road, East Wemyss, where a 20 mph limit prevails.

On November 8 and 10 it was driven at 112 mph on stretches of the A92 and later that month it hit 115 mph on the same road at Cowdenbeath.

The Land Rover was driven at 111 mph on November 21 at Standing Stane Road, Kirkcaldy, in a 60 mph limit and the day before the deaths it hit 112 mph again on the A92 at Cardenden.

On the evening of November 27 Clunie left to pick up friends and during a journey through streets in Kirkcaldy he was found to have travelled at more than 43 mph at one stage in a 20 mph zone.

One witness saw a large, black four-wheel drive travelling at a speed he estimated at double the 30 mph limit in another road.

The two women had left their home in Earn Road to walk to the ASDA store for shopping when witnesses heard the screeching of tyres, a scream and a thud.

Ms MacDonald’s son and Ms Hucknall’s partner, Joseph Jones, who has since died, heard the noise and went to the scene moments after the collision.

Mr Scullion said: “He found his mother and his girlfriend lying on the roadway and was extremely distressed.”

An off-duty fire fighter and ambulance technician tried to help the victims but the women both succumbed to injuries. Ms MacDonald died of severe chest injuries and the younger woman from head and neck injuries.

Collision investigators concluded that the Land Rover was travelling at least at 52 mph at the start of emergency braking which left tyre marks on the road. The speed limit in the area was 40 mph.

Mr Scullion said: “It is accepted by the accused that the extra speed patently reduced his ability to react and increased the speed at which the impact occurred.”

He added: “It is accepted by the Crown that albeit it was dark, the Land Rover was appropriately lit; that the deceased crossed against a ‘red man’ and that the deceased would have been in the roadway for between 0.5 and 1.5 seconds, depending upon whether they were walking or running.”

Defence counsel Brian McConnachie QC said: “This is a case where clearly, in light of the circumstances, a custodial sentence is inevitable.”

Lord Turnbull rejected a move to continue Clunie’s bail ahead of sentencing. He adjourned the case until December 1 at the High Court in Glasgow for the preparation of a background report.