Thursday 19 April 2018

Millionaire's son faces death by dangerous driving charges nine years after horrific accident

Antonio Boparan could face more serious charges following death of the girl he left brain damaged and paralysed in 2006 car smash

Cerys who had just celebrated her first birthday was thrown from her baby seat and broke her spine in the crash Photo: PA
Cerys who had just celebrated her first birthday was thrown from her baby seat and broke her spine in the crash Photo: PA

Patrick Sawyer

A millionaire’s son could face charges of causing death by dangerous driving following the death of a little girl he left brain damaged and paralysed in a horrific car accident nine years ago.

Cerys Edwards was left with devastating injuries after Antonio Boparan ploughed his Range Rover Sport SUV into her family’s jeep, as he was driving at 70mph on the wrong side of the road in a 30mph zone, in November 2006.

Cerys, who had just celebrated her first birthday, was thrown from her baby seat and broke her spine in the crash, leaving her paralysed, unable to speak and in need of round-the-clock care.

She underwent dozens of major operations over the following years, but died at Birmingham Children's Hospital on Saturday night, following an infection.

Boparan – the heir to a £130 million food manufacturing fortune - was found guilty of dangerous driving in April 2008, but was released just six months into his 21 month sentence.

Now Cerys’ family have called for police to bring new charges against him of causing death by dangerous driving.

Her father Gareth Edwards, 50, said: “At the first court case I think the Judge said if Cerys died they would be looking at death by dangerous driving in the future. He only served six months and Cerys has lost her life.

"She was left on a ventilator after the crash, she caught a virus and that has killed her. She wouldn't have been in that position if it wasn't for the crash.”

Mr Edwards added: “He is scum. I will leave it to the police but I would like to see him face new charges. In my mind, that would be only right and proper.”

West Midlands police sources last night said the case may be reviewed if a post mortem establishes a causal link between the original collision and Cerys’ death.

That could lead to new charges being brought against Boparan.

The Crown Prosecution Service said it would examine any new evidence in the case presented by police.

 Boparan, from Little Aston, West Mids., was 19 when he caused Cerys' injuries while speeding in his £57,000 Range Rover through Sutton Coldfield. Witnesses described him as weaving in and out of traffic before the collision.

The Edwards family were returning home from delivering Christmas presents when he crashed into them.

Boparan could have faced 14 years in prison had Cerys had died immediately following the crash, but instead he served just six months as a result of being found guilty of the lesser charge of dangerous driving.

The outrage over Boparan’s sentence led to a national campaign demanding Government action.

More than 13,000 people signed a petition calling for tougher sentences which was delivered to Westminster by Cerys's parents in July 2009.

The then Labour government introduced a series of changes under which anyone convicted of causing serious injury by dangerous driving now faces up to five years in prison, instead of the previous maximum of two.

Jack Straw, the then justice minister, called the Edwards family in person to give them the news about what came to be known as 'Cerys's Law'.

 Mr Edwards yesterday paid tribute to his daughter, who would have been ten next month, saying her smile "would melt the hearts of anyone".

The builder, from Sutton Coldfield, West Mids., said: "Given her injuries, she never complained and was a joy to be with. She was a very happy child who loved life.

"She loved listening to music and watching DVDs. She enjoyed going shopping, visiting the cinema and family holidays in Wales. She loved people singing and reading to her. She enjoyed school and made lots of friends who will all miss her.”

Cerys was awarded £5million compensation in 2012, along with an annual pay out of £450,000 to help pay for her care bill.

At the time Judge Martin McKenna, sitting at Birmingham County Court, described it as the "saddest and most tragic case" he had ever come across.

The Range Rover driven by Boparan was owned by his parents, Ranjit and Baljinder Boparan, who run the 2 Sisters Food Group, whose brands include Fox's Biscuits and Goodfella's.

Boparan is listed as a director of the firm, which has annual sales of £3.4billion, with plants and offices throughout Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands and Poland, and is the third largest food company in the UK by turnover.

In 2009 he set up the Boparan Charitable Trust with is mother Baljinder, 47, dedicated to “improve the lives of children living in the UK with disability, life-limiting illness and extreme poverty”.

Boparan was jailed again earlier this year, this time for his involvement in a bar fight which left one victim blind.

He was sentenced to 12 months on March 20 after pleading guilty to violent disorder and inflicting actual bodily harm outside the Nuvo Bar, in Birmingham, in April last year.

The court heard that Boparan threw one victim to the floor and kicked him in the head.

A spokesman for Boparan said in a statement: “Antonio remains deeply remorseful of his actions as a teenager nine years ago and their tragic consequences.

“No words can appropriately convey the extent of his sorrow and regret at hearing this terrible news today. He sends his heartfelt condolences to Cerys’ family at this extremely difficult time.”

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