Motorist Geoffrey Merrick was handed down a three-year prison sentence for killing a cyclist in a hit-and-run in 2013 in what has been described as a landmark ruling.
The Kuilsriver Magistrate’s Court also suspended Merrick’s driver’s licence for six months.
In May 2013, Merrick crashed into Dr Koos Roux, who was cycling with his son on Bottelary Road. Merrick fled the scene.
Police arrested him 10 days later when debris found on the scene matched up to his car.
He was found guilty of culpable homicide as well as three Road Act infringements.
The late cyclist’s wife, Beth Roux, said she was relieved that the four-year trial was finally over.
“My son and I are happy with the sentence, and we hope the sentence will send out a message to motorists to be on the lookout for cyclists and to be more careful when approaching and overtaking cyclists on the road,” she said.
“This is the first time a prison sentence has been handed down in a fatal hit-and-run incident involving a cyclist in South Africa,” said Pedal Power Association chief executive officer Robert Vogel.
In 2013, a law was promulgated in the Western Cape that makes it compulsory for motorists to overtake a cyclist with a minimum passing distance.
“Cyclists feel ignored by the legal system when the laws protecting them are not applied, but this might change after this ground-breaking verdict,” said Vogel.
Sentencing was delayed, with a sentence of house arrest with community service initially expected.
Vogel said he was given the opportunity to explain why cyclists felt the legal system was letting them down and that this case was being watched closely, in the hope that an appropriate sentence would be handed down.
“While some might not agree with the length of the jail term and feel it’s too short, in terms of what was expected, this is the first time a driver has been found guilty of killing a cyclist and sentenced to jail.
"This is also the first time the prosecution has asked a cycling organisation for input before sentencing and to make a case for the plight of cyclists on our roads,” Vogel said.
The association said magistrate Abdul Kader Jamalie said Merrick deprived the deceased of his right to live and the family of a husband and a father.
He added that Merrick was grossly negligent as he left the victim and his shocked son to fend for themselves.
State prosecutor Luzanne Williams expressed her satisfaction with the outcome.
“This is the sentence that we have asked for, so we are pleased with the outcome.”
Merrick’s lawyer has appealed against the sentence.