Sunday, 20 Sep 2020

Lorry driver who killed mum and boy in M58 crash while using phone at wheel jailed for eight years

A lorry driver who killed a schoolboy and mother-of-two when he crashed into a school minibus while using his mobile phone at the wheel has been jailed for eight years and 10 months.

James Majury was said to have effectively “unleashed a 19.2-tonne battering ram with his eyes closed” on the M58 in Lancashire as he opened apps on his phone and sent text messages while driving at speeds of up to 56mph.

The 33-year-old from Coppull, Chorley, “prioritised” checking his Facebook account at the wheel over the safety of other road users, Preston Crown Court heard.

He accessed the app less than a minute before his Mercedes Arocs vehicle, heavily laden with scaffolding, ploughed into the back of a nine-seater minibus carrying pupils and staff from Pontville School, a special educational needs facility in Ormskirk.

Majury slammed on his brakes just half a second before hitting the minibus, Preston Crown Court heard.

Joe Cairns, 14, from Radcliffe, Greater Manchester, and teaching assistant Anne Kerr, 50, from Southport, died from their injuries at the scene on 8 January 2019.

Majury pleaded guilty in February to two counts of causing death by dangerous driving and five counts of causing serious injury.

Sentencing him on Friday, Judge Robert Altham said: “The sad conclusion was this. The defendant did not see the obvious minibus and of course its precious occupants because he prioritised checking his Facebook over the safety of anyone else on the road that day.

“The force of the impact was so great the rear portion of the minibus was completely crushed.

“In a split second, those two lives were lost. These were precious individuals indeed.

“Their lives and the lives of those close to them have been laid waste by this defendant.”

Five others – the driver of the minibus and three teenage passengers, plus the driver of a Ford Transit van – were seriously injured in the seven-car collision close to the junction of the M58 westbound at Bickerstaffe.

The court heard Majury had opened other apps during his journey, including medieval fantasy game Hustle Castle and Sky Sports News, as well as responding to text messages from his mother.

He also twice manually unlocked his phone by entering a six-digit pin.

The court heard how Majury received his last text message at 8.41am, from his mother, which he admitted to looking down at.

It was then, when he looked back up, that he discovered he was within 12 metres of the minibus, which was stationary in a queue of traffic.

He attempted to brake but was unable to avoid the collision.

The court heard that the married father-of-one suffers from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder since the crash.

In a statement read out in court, Mrs Kerr’s husband, Simon, said: “There are no winners for anybody involved in this.

“I hope that people will remember this and think about the devastation that has been caused before picking up their phone whilst driving.”

Joe’s mother, Steph Cairns, said Majury’s actions were “so selfish and utterly mindless”, while his father, Andrew, told the court: “They say ‘death by dangerous’ but I say ‘no’ – it’s murder in my eyes.”

Inspector Claire Pearson, from Lancashire Road Policing Unit, said: “Joe and Anne’s families can’t bring their loved ones back but what they have asked is that people listen to what has happened here and learn that it is never safe to use a phone whilst you’re driving.”

Majury will be banned from driving for six years when he is released from prison on licence halfway through his sentence.

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