Dangerous driving, plea for stiffer sentencing

CAROLINE DAVISON

Press Association

The family of a child maimed when her parents’ car was hit head-on by a speeding driver are urging the Government to increase penalities for dangerous driving.

Cerys Edwards, now three, was horrendously injured on November 11, 2006, nine days after her first birthday, in the collision in Sutton Coldfield.

Doctors at two children’s hospitals recommended that Cerys’s life support systems should be switched off, but her family refused and Cerys survived. She is now paralysed, unable to breathe without a ventilator, is brain-injured and needs specialist medical equipment and a team of paediatric intensive care nurses with her 24 hours a day.

Cerys was in a specialist rehabilitation hospital in Surrey for 16 months following the crash. Her mother, Tracey Edwards, gave up her job and rented a house nearby to be with Cerys on a daily basis, while her father, Gareth Edwards, made regular trips from their home in Sutton Coldfield to visit.

In September this year, Tracey and Gareth were able to move Cerys into a rented house close to their home. Once a suitable house has been purchased and adapted the family will be able to live together for the first time in more than two years.

The cost of buying and adapting a suitable property could be £1 million. It is estimated that Cerys’s care could cost up to £14,500 per week for the rest of her life.

Cerys’ mother Tracey Edwards, who attended a protest in London yesterdayd urging people to change their bad driving habits, said: “We are broken-hearted at what has happened to Cerys. The driver put us through court and watching Cerys struggling to survive in hospital put us through hell. Our lives have been turned upside-down, from our plans for the future to everyday practicalities: there is just so much to organise when your child is paralysed and on a ventilator. We are on a continual emotional rollercoaster, with more emotional times to come.”

The speeding driver who caused the crash, Antonio Singh Boparan, then 21, pleaded not guilty to dangerous driving, but a jury convicted him after a five-day trial at Birmingham Crown Court.

He was sentenced to 21 months’ imprisonment on April 1, but was released on October 30, on an electronic tag and 7pm to 7am curfew, after serving just a third of his sentence.

Many families whose lives had been shattered by road accidents took part in the protest wearing high-visibility tabards and holding a large stopwatch bearing the message: “Stop. Imagine. Change.”

Cerys’s family has launched a petition urging the Government to increase the maximum penalty available for dangerous driving from two to 10 years and prevent newly-qualified drivers from driving high-performance cars.