A TRUCK driver from the North East is facing a jail sentence after admitting causing the death of a four-year-old girl.
Robert Booth, 64, of Brockley Street, Town End Farm, Sunderland, ploughed into the back of a people carrier owned by Priyanka Bhogal’s family on the M6 in Warwickshire in November 2011.
He had denied the charge of causing death by dangerous driving, but yesterday dramatically changed his plea to guilty on the second day of a crown court trial.
Booth had claimed he was suffering from sleep apnoea syndrome, and had fallen asleep at the wheel at the time of the accident, but that was rejected by police accident investigators.
The trial heard that he was driving at 55mph moments before the crash, despite overhead gantry signs warning of a problem ahead, and the speed limit being reduced to 40mph.
The judge told Booth his sentence will “inevitable be measured in years,” when he returns to court later this month.
The court had earlier heard that Booth’s lorry ploughed directly into the back of the Vauxhall Zafira after he ignored speed limit and warning signs.
After the hearing at Warwick Crown Court, Priyanka’s parents, Jaginder and Baljit Bhogal, said: “Our lives were shattered forever when Robert Booth ran his lorry directly into the back of our car at a speed significantly in excess of the limit.
“The impact was so massive it killed our beautiful four-year-old daughter, Priyanka, as she slept peacefully in the car. There will never be a day when we won’t remember the happiness she gave us, and the tragic events of that night.”
The couple, from Coventry, adding: “The evidence supporting the case was overwhelming.
“His driving was so dangerous on that night that it was a miracle there weren’t further fatalities but, despite the overwhelming evidence, he proceeded to plead not guilty.”
They added: “To date, he has shown little remorse or sincere regret. We hope the sentencing reflects the distress and loss we feel from having Priyanka taken from us.”
Booth claimed to police he was driving to the road conditions and the stipulations of the road signs, and braked to avoid a collision but that “it could not be avoided.”
But Pc Mark Weaver said the lorry’s tachograph showed the driver was not sticking to the 40mph speed limit in place.
He said: “The final six seconds are the emergency braking of the lorry from a speed of 55 down to zero.”
It had been claimed by the defence that, unknown to him, Booth was suffering from sleep apnoea syndrome at the time – and had fallen asleep at the wheel.
But after an expert had given evidence about his supposed sleep apnoea, Booth dramatically changed his plea to guilty.
Judge Sylvia de Bertodano granted Booth bail until the sentencing hearing, on February 25.
But she warned him: “Please do not be under any illusions. I am releasing you on bail, but it will inevitably be a sentence of custody, and it will inevitably be measured in years.”