UK

Lorry Driver, Robert Booth, Who Killed Priyanka Bhogal In M6 Motorway Crash, Jailed

25/02/2013 18:05 GMT

A lorry driver who killed a young girl in a horrific motorway crash after ignoring speed limit signs has been jailed for four-and-a-half years.

Robert Booth, 64, pleaded guilty this month to causing the death of four-year-old Priyanka Bhogal by dangerous driving despite initially denying the offence.

Priyanka, from Coventry, died of a head injury after Booth's heavy goods vehicle smashed into the back of her mother's Vauxhall Zafira on the M6 in November 2011.

priyanka bhogal

Priyanka's aunt and eight-year-old sister were also hurt in the crash

Signs on the approach to the site of the accident near Coleshill, Warwickshire, had reduced the speed limit to 40mph and even 20mph because of slow-moving traffic.

But Booth's lorry was later found to have been travelling at its "limited" top speed of around 55mph until moments before it came to a halt.

Sentencing Booth, of Brockley Street, Town End Farm, Sunderland, Judge Sylvia De Bertodano accepted he had led an "entirely blameless" life before to the tragedy.

Warwick Crown Court heard Booth, a married father-of-four, was of previous good character and had received "not so much as a speeding conviction" while working as a lorry driver for 42 years.

Booth, who has eight grandchildren, had also developed a depressive illness since the accident, as well as suffering from a heart condition and caring for his wife.

During her sentencing remarks, Judge De Bertodano told Booth: "Nothing in your past can possibly have prepared you for finding yourself in the position that you are in today.

"I have no doubt about your remorse but nothing you can do, and nothing that I can do, can take away the pain that Priyanka's family suffer and will continue to suffer for the rest of their lives."

Imposing a five-year driving ban, the judge told Booth: "It was a sustained period of driving for what must have been several minutes, during which you ignored the traffic signs which clearly reduced the advisory speed limit to 40mph and then made that limit mandatory.

"You also ignored the fact that vehicles ahead were slowing down - the red brake lights described by other drivers.

"Despite all this you maintained a speed limit at the top level available to your vehicle. Whether asleep or awake you were in your own little world and utterly unaware of what was going on outside your cab."

Two other members of Priyanka's family, including her aunt and eight-year-old sister, suffered serious injuries when the near-stationary Zafira was "punted" into a concrete barrier at about 12.25am.

The car, which had slowed down with its hazard lights flashing, was struck despite "obvious" overhead gantry signs warning of a problem ahead.

Booth pleaded guilty on the second day of a trial at which he claimed he may have fallen asleep due to obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome, rather than tiredness, in the run-up to the crash.

Following the sentencing, Priyanka's relatives released a statement on what they said was "another milestone in this dark chapter of our lives".

The statement, released through West Midlands Police, read: "We have had to wait and suffer to see justice done for over a year, on top of coming to terms of the loss of our daughter Priyanka under such tragic circumstances.

"The sentence Mr Booth has been given is nothing compared to the sentence which we will face for the rest of our lives. There will never be a day when we won't remember the warmth and love we received from our daughter and the pain we feel from losing her."

The family added that the aborted trial had been "emotionally and physically draining" and had forced them to relive the horrific and painful events of November 27, 2011.

The statement continued: "We often ask ourselves how we would act had we killed a four-year-old child as a result of driving dangerously.

"We can honestly say that we would come forward and take responsibility for our mistake.

"We would want the family to know how genuinely sorry we were and do everything possible not to cause them any further pain or suffering.

"It's very difficult for us to forgive someone whose actions since that night have demonstrated no genuine remorse or regret and have been designed only to try and escape justice."