Lawyers And Family Welcome Coroner’s Decision To Refer Sheffield Mum’s Death To CPS
The death of a mum killed in a smart motorway crash has been referred to prosecutors to investigate potential criminal charges.
Coroner Nicola Mundy has referred Nargis Begum’s death to the Crown Prosecution Service asking it to see whether there are grounds for Highways England to face corporate manslaughter charges. The CPS has also confirmed that the driver involved in a collision in which Nargis, 62, was fatally injured on the M1 near Sheffield, should not face prosecution, following an earlier referral from the coroner.
It comes after a second pre-inquest review hearing was held into the death of the mum-of-five and grandmother-of-nine.
Family asks lawyers for help after death of Nargis Begum on smart motorway
Following her death, Nargis’s family, of Darnall, Sheffield, instructed specialist lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate and bring a civil case against Highways England calling for the use of smart motorways to be scrapped.
Irwin Mitchell is also representing Claire Mercer, whose husband Jason, 47, was killed in a separate crash of the M1 near Sheffield. Claire, of Broom, Rotherham, and her legal team are investigating bringing a separate legal challenge against Highways England calling for the use of smart motorways to be halted.
Expert Opinion“Nargis was the heartbeat of the family and understandably her loved ones remain devastated by their loss.
“The pain of losing Nargis has been made all the harder given circumstances in which she died.
“Her family have a number of concerns about the use of smart motorways and the events surrounding her death.
“As more information comes to light about this tragedy, it appears that other motorists had very limited time to see and react to Nargis and Mohammed’s vehicle, resulting in several near misses before the collision occurred.
“We and Nargis’s family welcome the coroner’s decision to refer her death to the Crown Prosecution Service. All the family want is for no stone to be left unturned and the most thorough and transparent investigation to be held examining all of the facts so all possible lessons can be learned.
“While it’s now vital that prosecutors are allowed to conduct their investigation unhindered we will continue to support Nargis’s family to help provide them with the answer they deserve.” Christopher Kardahji - Team Leader & Senior Associate
M1 smart motorway - Nargis Begum's story
Nargis, a mum-of-five and grandmother-of-nine, died in September 2018, after the Nissan Qashqai she was a passenger in broke down near Woodall services. Nargis and her husband Mohammed Bashir, 67, who had been driving, exited their vehicle and were waiting for help to arrive when another vehicle then collided with their vehicle causing the Nissan to plough into Nargis.
The stranded Nissan had its hazard lights on for 17 minutes when the other vehicle collided with it. The lane had not been closed to traffic.
Minutes before the collision the couple had phoned their daughter Saima Aktar who arrived at the scene to find paramedics trying to save her mum.
The CPS has now confirmed that the driver who collided with Nargis and Mohammed’s vehicle will face no charges because of insufficient evidence.
Family pleased CPS will investigate Highways England over smart motorways death
Saima said: “While time continues to pass the feeling of grief and loss we feel over Mum’s death doesn’t disappear.
“The last two years and trying to come to terms with what happened has been incredibly difficult, especially for my Dad. That he avoided injury but his loving and caring wife of 45 years died in front of him has taken its toll on him.
“We’re pleased that the coroner has taken our concerns seriously and has referred our Mum’s death to the CPS.
“Along with Claire, we’re determined to do everything we can to campaign for change and for action to be taken around the use of smart motorways.”
Smart Motorways Background
Jason and 22-year-old Alexandru Murgreanu, from Mansfield, were killed when they were knocked down by a lorry shortly after the pair was involved in a minor collision near junction 34 of the M1 near Meadowhall. The pair had pulled over to the roadside as far as they could.
However, the lane was not closed to traffic until after the collision which happened on 7 June, 2019.
Jason and Nargis were among four people to die in collisions on the M1 around Sheffield in 10 months. The stretch of motorway is an ‘all lanes running’ (ALR) motorway which instead of a hard shoulder has emergency refuges spaced at intervals.
The families have teamed up to lobby Highways England for change. As part of the Smart Motorways Kill movement, the families want to hear from others who have either been injured or had relatives die on the stretches of road where the traditional hard shoulder has been replaced.
In January last year, a hard hitting parliamentary report found some of the deaths of the eight people killed on all lane running motorways could have been avoided with the use of technology to detect stationary vehicles. A commitment to install such technology was made in 2016.
There had been “gross public policy” failures which were a “damning indictment” of Highway England’s “on-the-hoof approach” to such sections of motorway, the report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Roadside Rescue and Recovery said.
In its publication the group found:
• A total of 38 per cent of 51,100 breakdowns recorded on stretches of ALR motorway were in live lanes, compared to 20.43 per cent on conventional motorways. This was described as “completely unacceptable” and a “public policy failure”.
• Claims from Highways England that spacing of emergency refuges – which vehicles use instead of a hard shoulder – less than 1.5 miles apart had no effect were “unconvincing”.
• Highways England does not have enough resources and systems in place to respond to live lane breakdowns quickly enough.
• Stopped vehicle detection technology recently trialled on the M25 should have been installed on all stretches of all lane running motorways from the outset and “certainly should have been retrofitted in 2016 after a commitment by Highways England to do so.
• An admission that if such technology was in operation some of those eight people killed on ALR carriageways may not have lost their lives amounted to a “gross public policy failure and damning indictment of the agency’s on-the-hoof approach to All Lane Running motorways.”
• There was not enough enforcement of stopping drivers travelling in lanes with a red X on overhead signs, indicating the lane is closed.
The report ruled that all lane running motorways should be halted until:
• At least three years of data is available for each stretch of road that shows safety improvements
• The live lane breakdown rate is below the 20.43 per cent rate on traditional motorways.
• There is a “marked improvement in the current response time of 17 minutes 43 seconds by Highways England officers to live breakdowns.
• Emergency laybys are located a maximum of 800 metres apart on all stretches of carriageway
• All stretches have stopped vehicle detection technology installed
• Drivers complying with red X lane closure signs was raised to 98 per cent.