The sentencing of a man to a three-year jail term for killing a Bloemendal cyclist in a hit-and-run has been hailed as a landmark ruling.
Geoffrey Merrick was convicted of culpable homicide in the death of Dr Koos Roux. He was also found guilty of three Road Act infringements and his licence was suspended for six months.
Merrick was sentenced in the Kuils River Magistrate’s Court, on Friday September 22.
In May 2013, Merrick crashed into Dr Roux who had been cycling with his son on Bottelary Road, well within the road shoulder.
Merrick fled the scene, but the police arrested him ten days later after finding crash debris that matched his car.
Dr Roux’s wife, Beth Roux, said she was relieved the four-year trial was finally over.
“Both my son and I are happy with the sentence, and we hope that 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.”
Robert Vogel, CEO of the Pedal Power Association, said it was the first time a prison sentence had been handed down in a fatal hit-and-run involving a cyclist in South Africa.
“Cyclists feel ignored by the legal system when the laws protecting them are not applied, but this might change after this ground-breaking verdict,” he said.
The magistrate, Abdul Kader Jamalie, found Merrick had deprived Dr Roux of his right to life and the Roux family of a husband and a father.
The magistrate added that Merrick had been grossly negligent as he had left the victim and his shocked son next to the road to fend for themselves.
Dr Roux might have survived the crash had Merrick remained at the scene to assist.
Ms Roux said the family was extremely grateful to the PPA for its assistance.
“We believe that the case would have been thrown out of court if the PPA did not assist us. Both Kobus and I cannot thank the association enough,” she said.
“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,” said Mr Vogel.
State prosecutor Luzanne Williams was also satisfied with the sentence.
“This is the sentence that we have asked for, so we are pleased with the outcome,” she said.
Merrick’s lawyer has appealed the sentence.