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25 February 2013, 07:38 | Updated: 30 March 2016, 13:50
A lorry driver from Sunderland who killed a young girl in a horrific motorway crash after ignoring speed limit signs has been jailed for four and a half years
Robert Booth, 64, pleaded guilty this month to causing the death of four-year-old Priyanka Bhogal by dangerous driving despite initially denying the offence.
Priyanka, from Coventry, died of a head injury after Booth's heavy goods vehicle smashed into the back of her mother's Vauxhall Zafira on the M6 in November 2011. Signs on the approach to the site of the accident near Coleshill, Warwickshire, had reduced the speed limit to 40mph and even 20mph because of slow-moving traffic.
But Booth's lorry was later found to have been travelling at its ``limited'' top speed of around 55mph until moments before it came to a halt. Sentencing Booth, of Brockley Street, Town End Farm, Sunderland, Judge Sylvia De Bertodano accepted he had led an ``entirely blameless'' life before the tragedy.
Warwick Crown Court heard Booth, a married father-of-four, was of previous good character and had received ``not so much as a speeding conviction'' while working as a lorry driver for 42 years. Booth, who has eight grandchildren, had also developed a depressive illness since the accident, as well as suffering from a heart condition and caring for his wife.
During her sentencing remarks, Judge De Bertodano told Booth: ``Nothing in your past can possibly have prepared you for finding yourself in the position that you are in today. have no doubt about your remorse but nothing you can do, and nothing that I can do, can take away the pain that Priyanka's family suffer and will continue to suffer for the rest of their lives.''
Imposing a five-year driving ban, the judge told Booth: ``It was a sustained period of driving for what must have been several minutes, during which you ignored the traffic signs which clearly reduced the advisory speed limit to 40mph and then made that limit mandatory. You also ignored the fact that vehicles ahead were slowing down - the red brake lights described by other drivers. Despite all this you maintained a speed limit at the top level available to your vehicle. Whether asleep or awake you were in your own little world and utterly unaware of what was going on outside your cab.''