Lorry driver jailed over charity cyclists' deaths
- 1 September 2014
- From the section Cornwall
A lorry driver who killed two cyclists taking part in a charity ride from Land's End to John O'Groats has been jailed for eight and a half years.
Robert Palmer, 32, from Grimscott near Bude in Cornwall, pleaded guilty at Truro Crown Court to two counts of causing death by dangerous driving.
Palmer also admitted injuring another driver in a crash two months later, while he was on bail over the deaths.
Andrew McMenigall and Toby Wallace were killed near Newquay in July 2013.
Mr McMenigall, 47, and Mr Wallace, 36, who both worked for Aberdeen Asset Management, were 40 miles into the 960-mile ride when they were run over on the nearside lane of a dual carriageway section of the A30.
Married father-of-two Mr McMenigall, from Edinburgh, and English-born Mr Wallace, who was working in Philadelphia in the US, were raising money for two charities, the Kirsten Scott Memorial Trust and Edinburgh-based It's Good 2 Give.
The court heard that the speed-limited lorry was travelling at 56mph (90km/h) in good visibility, that Palmer "should've been able to see" the two experienced cyclists, yet witnesses said the vehicle took no avoiding action.
Prosecutors said Palmer had not had enough rest periods between shifts at work and had falsified rest records.
As a result, the cyclists were "mown down", they said.
Palmer had pleaded guilty at a previous hearing to two counts of causing death by dangerous driving. He was sentenced to seven and a half years for each count, to be served concurrently.
Palmer had also admitted a charge of dangerous driving in relation to a crash on the A30 at Whiddon Down near Okehampton, Devon, which happened in September 2013, 11 weeks after the fatal collision.
The court heard he had been on bail while police were investigating the cyclists' deaths at the time of the second crash.
He was sentenced to one year for that offence, to be served consecutively.
Mitigating, Palmer's defence team said the "devoted" father of one had no previous convictions and he was aware the deaths had "blighted the lives of two families" and that he had struggled with the "enormity of what he had done".
Sentencing, Judge Christopher Harvey Clark told Palmer he would serve half the sentence in prison and the remainder on licence.
He also banned Palmer from driving for 10 years and ordered him to pay a victim surcharge of £120, which he acknowledged was an absurdity in such a "tragic case".
He said Palmer had "almost certainly" fallen asleep after suffering from "extreme fatigue and exhaustion" and told him: "You should have been aware of your condition."
In a statement afterwards, the widows of Mr McMenigall and Mr Wallace said: "There are no words to describe the devastation and loss that we, and both families, feel following the deaths of our husbands.
"They were exceptional and giant men in every sense of the word."