On 11th August 2018, Colin Rutherford from Irvine, a well-known and respected character amongst the Scottish motorcycling community, was killed when a tractor driver pulled in front of the Harley Davidson he was riding. Colin had more than 45 years’ experience of riding motorcycles. Friends would describe him as a defensive rider, someone who could read road conditions and potential hazards and who rode accordingly.
61 yr old William Dykes from Eaglesham, who was driving the tractor and towing a trailer failed to keep a proper lookout for oncoming traffic and crossed onto the opposite carriageway on the A77 while turning into an access road to Floak Farm. Despite Colin’s experience, there was no way he could have anticipated the actions of Mr Dykes which was confirmed by a witness and the police assessment of the incident.
Colin was thrown from his motorcycle as a result of the collision caused by Mr Dykes and died at the scene.
Kilmarnock Sheriff Court heard that Mr Dykes, along with others, fought to revive Mr Rutherford using CPR techniques until paramedics arrived, but despite all their efforts, Colin died at the remote scene.
William Dykes admitted driving without due care and attention and causing Colin’s death.
Mr Dykes was charged with Causing Death by Careless Driving. This is a relatively new offence introduced by s20 of the Road Safety Act 2006 where cases are prosecuted under s2B of the Road Traffic Act 1988. For a conviction to follow, the standard of careless driving has to fall below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver and this careless or inconsiderate driving must have caused the death of another.
Prior to this legislation being enacted in the Scottish Courts, Sheriffs were unable to take the consequences of careless driving into account in their sentencing. This crime attracts obligatory disqualification and has a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment.
Gordon Nicol, Dykes’ Lawyer, could not explain why his client had failed to see the motorbike, especially after police reconstructions estimated that Mr Dykes had between 9-10 seconds to see the motorcycle ridden by Mr Rutherford approaching him along a straight piece of road with its headlight on. He acknowledged it was an awful moment of inattention that Mr Dykes would have to live with for the rest of his days.
The court passed a sentence on Mr Dykes of a six-month curfew tagging order between the hours of 5pm and 5am which requires him to stay at his home address during these hours, 200 hours of community service unpaid work, disqualified from driving for three years and at that point he will then be required to pass an extended driving test in order to regain his licence.
Sheriff Elizabeth McFarlane said that Mr Rutherford's death had left a "massive void" in the lives of his wife, family and friends. She accepted that Mr Dykes would have to live with the fatal consequences of his actions every day and would continue to do so for the rest of his life. She concluded that despite the tragic consequences, taking account of Mr Dykes previously unblemished record and comments from the victim impact statements provided by Mr Rutherford’s wife and family, she did not believe it necessary to impose a custodial sentence on him.
Throughout the entire criminal proceedings, the Rutherford family showed tremendous dignity and respect. The Road Traffic Fatalities Investigation Unit within the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service should also be commended for their communication and empathy shown to Mr Rutherford’s family during what is always a very difficult time.
Understandably, Maureen is devastated and not a day goes by when she doesn’t think of her beloved husband and mourns for him. Colin’s parents, brother and sister will never get over their loss. The Rutherford family dealt with their pain with composure, and even displayed an element of empathy for Mr Dykes by understanding that he didn’t intend what happened. A life was lost and, lives have been turned upside down. The tragedy could so easily have been avoided with a second glance. William Dykes will have to live with killing a man due to a moment of negligence for the rest of his days. The family accepts the sentence given the circumstances, but the message from them to all drivers and motorcyclists is to watch out for each other at all times, especially at road junctions.