Court of Appeal rejects OAP’s bid to get jail term reduced after killing cyclist

Court of Appeal rejects OAP’s bid to get jail term reduced after killing cyclist

15 November 2023

A KILLYLEAGH pensioner who drove into two cyclists, killing one and inflicting life-changing injuries on the other, tried to blame the victims and lied about suffering a previous stroke, the Court of Appeal heard last week.

Senior judges rejected 75 year-old Arthur McGrillen’s challenge to the five-year sentence he received for causing a collision outside Downpatrick which had “horrific consequences”.

Stressing the need for deterrence, Lord Justice Treacy declared: “All drivers must realise that if their driving is dangerous and causes death or grievous injury that they will face a significant period of imprisonment.”

McGrillen was behind the wheel of a Mercedes C-Class car which ploughed into friends Aidan Fitzpatrick and Ralph Mills on the Killyleagh Road on October 20, 2019.

Both cyclists were taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, where 59 year–old Mr Fitzpatrick later died.

Mr Mills sustained life-changing injuries which were said to have left him in constant pain.

The accident happened in clear conditions on a straight stretch off the road as both men cycled towards Killyleagh.

McGrillen, of Catherine Street, initially told police at the scene that he had not seen the victims.

He later claimed the cyclists were at fault, bumping into his car as he went to go round them.

During police interviews, when asked to give his account for the collision where a man died, he replied: “What about me?” and further stated “it wasn’t my fault”.

However, a rear-facing camera fitted to one of the bikes captured footage of his car driving directly into the victims.

It also emerged that McGrillen had suffered a stroke in 2017, but failed to declare his condition when renewing his licence the following year.

The pensioner eventually pleaded guilty to causing the death of Mr Fitzpatrick by dangerous driving and causing grievous bodily injury to Mr Mills. 

In November last year he was ordered to serve two-and-a-half years in custody and a further two-and-a-half years on licence.

Appealing the term imposed, defence lawyers argued it was a manifestly excessive sentence based on the circumstances and standard of McGrillen’s driving.

Delivering reasons for dismissing the appeal, Lord Justice Treacy highlighted McGrillen’s “abject failure to see the cyclists at all in the circumstances, and to take any steps to avoid the collision”.

He also rejected claims the trial judge was unduly affected by victim impact statements. 

Instead, the grievous loss suffered by the Fitzpatrick family, and the physical and psychological pain endured by Mr Mills had been properly taken into account.

The circumstances surrounding McGrillen’s medical condition were also correctly identified as a significant and aggravating factor of high culpability.

Lord Justice Treacy stated: “The applicant knew he had a stroke, he lied to the DVLA [Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency] about this, he knew he had not been allowed to drive for a significant period after his stroke. 

“It is a reasonable inference that he did not want to be medically examined because he knew he was likely to fail any medical.”

With the legislation aimed at discouraging irresponsible motorists, he said: “We are satisfied that this was appropriately achieved by the sentencing judge given the woeful standard of driving in this case.”

Lord Justice Treacy concluded: “No term of imprisonment can erase the loss of life or family grief resulting from the death and life changing injuries of innocent road users. 

“The purpose of punishment in cases of dangerous driving resulting in these consequences must be focused on the culpability of the offender and the horrific consequences of his dangerous driving.”