Could Highways England Face Manslaughter Charge?

Thu 11th Feb 2021

The ongoing saga of smart motorway safety has taken a new twist after a coroner in South Yorkshire today referred Highways England to the Crown Prosecution Service.

If the CPS agrees with the assessment then they could be facing charges of corporate manslaughter in the case of Nargis Begum, who died on a stretch of smart motorway on the M1 in South Yorkshire.

Begum was struck and killed by her own car after it was hit by another vehicle, with the coroner deciding that the 16 minute period between breaking down and the fatal impact, required proper scrutiny by the CPS.

One of the key factor in the decision was the fact that 38 people have been killed on smart motorways in the past five years.

 "I will invite the CPS to review this matter and undertake any investigations they deem necessary to enable them to take the decision as to whether or not criminal charges are appropriate in this case,” Coroner Nicola Mundy said.

Smart motorways have dominated the headlines over the past 12 months, following a Panorama documentary which questioned the safety, and more recent comments from the transport secretary Grant Shapps who said that so-called smart motorways are ‘anything but’ smart.

Edmund King, president of the AA, said: “This is a significant moment for ‘smart’ motorways and highlights many failings, previously raised by the AA, that should have been spotted before the first fatalities, and clearly need urgent action.

“We will await the CPS conclusions in due course, but this decision will once again raise serious questions regarding the permanent removal of the hard shoulder.”