A CORONER has referred the death of a mum of five on a smart motorway to the Crown Prosecution Service — a move campaigning widow Clare Mercer has welcomed.
Doncaster senior coroner Nicola Mundy referred Nargis Begum’s death, asking the CPS on Thursday to investigate if there are grounds for Highways England (HE) to face corporate manslaughter charges.
Claire, of Broom, has been battling for a year for South Yorkshire Police to bring the same charges against HE in relation to the death of her husband Jason.
She said the coroner’s decision at Nargis’ pre-inquest review had helped strengthen her case against the government-run body.
Claire, who attended the hearing, said: “Some of the things [the] Highways England [representative] said in the inquest angered me.
“Apparently the Government don’t have a duty of care to road users. That was his defence. The coroner asked him to repeat that.”
Claire has been campaigning for the abolishment of smart motorways since Jason, and Alexandru Murgeanu (22), were hit by a lorry after stopping to exchange details on the M1 in June 2019.
Nargis (62) died a year earlier after the Nissan Qashqai she was a passenger in broke down near Woodall services. Nargis and her husband were waiting for help to arrive when another vehicle collided with their car.
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.
The CPS confirmed that the driver involved in the collision will not face prosecution, following an earlier referral from the coroner.
Claire added: “With this ruling, I think that will add a lot, it really strengthens the argument with it being local and there’s still Derek Jacobs’ inquest to come.”
Derek (83) died on the all-lane running smart motorway system near the M1 in Derbyshire in March 2019 after stopping to change a tyre.
Last month, Sheffield senior coroner David Urpeth ruled Jason (44) and Alexandru had been killed unlawfully.
“The unlawful death ruling helps me push South Yorkshire Police into a corner as they were refusing to even look into corporate manslaughter charges,” said Claire.
“I have had a letter saying they are going to look into it. It doesn’t mean they are going to do it, it just means they are going to look into it.
“But for a year I have been pushing for them to even do that. I was rejected four times.
“I’ve taken it to the IOPC four times, I have gone to the crime commissioner but after their inquest, they’ve said they will have a look.”
The widow, who set up website smartmotorwayskill.co.uk, also plans to take on Google Maps.
“A supporter suggested speaking to them about providing a non-smart motorway route on sat-navs, and I think it’s a really good idea,” she said.
“I’ve written to them, nobody has acknowledged it but I plan to push again. I might try a good old-fashioned letter.
“We get 100 contacts a week telling us: ‘I’m scared to drive on smart motorways, I will go miles out of the way to avoid them’.
“So they haven’t reduced congestion, they are just filling up A-roads.”