M5 bus crash driver jailed for six years

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Judge describes incident as “entirely foreseeable and avoidable” and driver fails roadside breath test

A Birmingham bus driver has been sentenced to six years imprisonment following a crash on the M5 last year, in which two people died.

Jasminder Dhesi appeared before Birmingham Crown Court last Tuesday (February 12) for the hearing, after pleading guilty to two counts of causing death by dangerous driving in January. He was sentenced to two terms of six years imprisonment, to run concurrently.

As reported in CBW1071, the 50-year-old from Great Barr was driving an Alexander PS-bodied Volvo B10B along the M5 in the early hours of March 24, 2012 when it came to a halt in a live lane and was subsequently hit by a lorry, on the southbound carriageway near to junction three.

Liaquat Ali, 35, was a passenger on the bus and died at the scene. William Mapstone, a 65-year-old HGV driver, from Somerset, died in hospital later that day. Another 30 people were injured in the crash, which happened in thick patchy fog.

Prior to the collision the bus had twice lost power and Dhesi had pulled over onto the hard shoulder momentarily. Despite the fog and the vehicle’s unreliability Mr Dhesi continued with the journey. However, the bus again broke down in a section of the motorway where there was no hard shoulder and the vehicle remained in a live lane.

Moments later the bus was hit by Mr Mapstone’s lorry.

The court also heard the bus driver failed a roadside breath test immediately after the collision, but his sample once in police custody registered as 31 milligrams, which is below the legal limit of 35.

In sentencing Mr Dhesi, Judge Michael Chambers QC referred to the evidence which suggested the defendant had been drinking prior to getting behind the wheel was an aggravating factor. “What happened, in my judgement, was entirely foreseeable and avoidable,” he added.

Inspector Mark Watkins, from the Regional Collision Investigation Unit, said: “This sentence brings to an end a comprehensive and complicated 10-month investigation. Mr Dhesi made a fatal error when he took a bus full of people onto the M5 knowing there were serious mechanical faults on the vehicle.

“His criminal error of judgement in going onto the motorway in thick fog led to the inevitable loss of two lives, caused a man to remain in hospital to this day, and left 29 others with injuries.

“I hope the sentencing offers some comfort to all those affected by this collision.”

The operator of the bus remains a mystery. A VOSA spokesperson told CBW: “West Midland Police (WMP) prosecuted the driver for dangerous driving. VOSA has no plans to prosecute the vehicle owners. VOSA conducted a roadworthiness inspection of the bus after the collision at the behest of WMP, with the exception of the engine fault which it appears, developed on the journey, the inspection revealed no pre-existing mechanical defects.”