No charges over South Yorkshire smart motorway deaths

Police looking into the deaths of three people on smart motorways in South Yorkshire say that they will not be going ahead with any corporate manslaughter charges against National Highways.

Nargis Beghum was killed on a stretch of smart motorway on the M1 near Woodall Services, in September 2018 while Jason Mercer and Alexandru Murgeanu died in 2019 on a different stretch of the M1 when they were hit by a lorry after pulling over into a live lane to exchange details after a collision.

In a statement, Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Sarah Poolman said: “I would like to express my heartfelt sympathies to the families and loved ones of those who have lost their lives on the smart motorway in South Yorkshire. Families and campaigners are fighting with dignity and admirable determination in their search for answers and action following these tragedies.

“Following concerns expressed by senior coroner Nicola Mundy at the pre-inquest review into the death of Mrs Nargis Begum, the force launched a ‘scoping exercise’ to ascertain whether there is a reasonable suspicion that Highways England may have committed the criminal offence of corporate manslaughter. Within our terms of reference, we also included the incident which led to the deaths of Mr Jason Mercer and Mr Alexandru Murgeanu.

“As part of our work, we sought specialist advice from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). Having considered the CPS advice, we have concluded that in the circumstances, Highways England cannot be held liable for the offence of corporate manslaughter. This is because, in legal terms, the organisation did not owe road users a ‘relevant duty of care’ under the terms set out in the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007. For this reason, I have brought the police investigation into this offence to an end.

“I regret that South Yorkshire Police is unable to provide all the answers that families and campaigners are looking for. However, I can assure them that a thorough and comprehensive report comprising our findings and all of the materials we have gathered during our scoping exercise is now being completed. This report will be provided to Ms Mundy before Mrs Begum’s inquest is resumed. It can also be made available to the government and Highways England, with a view that its contents may help inform further enquiries into smart motorways via other avenues in the future.”

(Picture – South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner)

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