By Hedwig Kröner
In the recently announced judgment of the legal case against Stephanie Magner, 19, who caused the fatal road accident in July last year, killing Australian Institute of Sport rider Amy Gillett and injuring five of her team-mates, the Chief Public Prosecutor of Gera, Germany, told Cyclingnews that German adult criminal law was applied. Previous reports had speculated that because of the young age of the driver, the milder youth criminal law might have been applied. Magner was sentenced to a fine of 1440 Euros and eight months disqualification from driving, a punishment that Amy Gillett's father Denis Safe has described as "pathetic and insulting".
"The verdict was been made according to German adult criminal law, not youth law, and it is in accordance with similar cases of accidental homicide in traffic," said Chief Public Prosecutor Rolf Mundt. "There were several criteria: the grade of the person's fault, which was low given the negligence. On the other hand, there were the consequences, which were of course very serious."
When Cyclingnews asked Mundt if he could relate to the consternation of the victims' families and friends faced with the relatively mild sentence, he said, "I can understand it on one hand. But in Germany, German criminal law is applied; even though I have also heard that in Australia, there are much greater punishments for that kind of offence. We had to rule on this case using German law, and it is in accordance with similar cases."
Mundt also explained the relatively small fine. "The fine of 1440 Euros was calculated by using a rate out of four months of the driver's salary," he continued. "As she is still in training, her income is very low, so that is why the fine is also relatively small."
More than six months after the terrible accident, the investigation of what had caused Magner, who had just received her driving license, to lose control of her vehicle could still not provide a concrete explanation. "We do not know the exact causes," the German prosecutor said. "She was driving along a light left hand bend, and drifted a little bit to the right hand side. Her driving was neither too fast, nor was she using her cellphone - we checked that. Now, an experienced driver in the same situation would have turned the steering wheel only lightly to get back into the right position, but apparently she turned it around too abruptly and her vehicle started skidding. At the time of this first mistake - driving too far to the right - she could not yet see the group of cyclists because of the road bend. In her surprise, she turned the wheel around too rapidly and then drifted into the riders sideways."
Magner, who was also injured in the crash, is still in psychiatric treatment.
April 3, 2006: Mark Webber cautions motorists to watch for cyclists in Amy Gillett's name
February 21, 2006: AIS survivors tell of crash and recovery
February 7, 2006: AIS crash verdict: "German law was applied"
February 4, 2006: AIS crash: driver sentenced
December 25, 2005: An interview with the survivors of the German tragedy
December 23, 2005: An interview with Warren McDonald
December 13, 2005: Emotional conclusion to Amy Gillett Charity Ride
Amy Gillett Foundation Charity Ride diary
October 28, 2005: AIS women at charity luncheon in Sydney
October 20, 2005: Yaxley making solid progress
October 6, 2005: Investigation in Gillett's death almost complete
August 24, 2005: Graham vows to return
August 22, 2005: Yaxley and Rhodes home
August 18, 2005: Rhodes and Yaxley bound for home
August 14, 2005: Yaxley and Rhodes continue to make progress
August 11, 2005: Brown vows to return to cycling
August 8, 2005: More support for Gillett-Safe Cycling Foundation
August 3, 2005: Rhodes and Yaxley out of intensive care
July 29, 2005: Amy Gillett's life recalled in moving service
July 28, 2005: Rhodes and Yaxley recovery 'amazing'
July 24, 2005: Yaxley improving, Rhodes still unconscious
July 21, 2005: AIS head 'optimistic' about recovery; 'Brownie' tries his best
July 19, 2005: Unprecedented carnage in GermanyJuly 18, 2005: Amy Gillett dead after crash in Germany