Driver who hit judge ‘was uninsured, speeding and smoked cannabis before crash’

An uninsured driver whose car clipped a district judge as he tried to cross a busy road in Birmingham after Christmas celebrations was speeding and had smoked cannabis before the crash, a court has heard.

Lawyer Matthew Mawdsley, a father-of-three who lived in Manchester, had been appointed as district judge in the city just weeks before he suffered fatal injuries in a collision on the A38 Aston Expressway on December 16 2022.

The 54-year-old had been out celebrating Christmas with his district judge colleagues and had continued drinking into the evening before attempting to walk back to the hotel he was staying in that week due to train strikes, Birmingham Crown Court heard on Monday.

Mr Mawdsley had been trying to cross the busy carriageway at around 10pm when he was hit by the rear nearside of a car being driven by Elliott Nash, 33, who was on his way home from working on a stall at a Christmas market in Pigeon Park.

He fell to the ground and was then hit by another car, suffering catastrophic head injuries, as well as fractures to his pelvis, ribs and hip.

Nash, from Willenhall in Walsall, is on trial accused of causing death by driving while uninsured, which he denies.

Prosecutor Phillip Bradley KC told a jury of six women and six men that Mr Mawdsley’s attempt to cross the busy road may have been affected by alcohol, but said Nash simply should not have been on the road in the first place.

Opening the Crown’s case, he said: “We all know at that time of year, the city centre sees workers and partygoers attending Christmas parties. Mr Mawdsley was no different.

“He had spent the afternoon of December 16 with colleagues in the city centre at a district judges’ Christmas lunch. Afterwards, he and others continued drinking.

“At the end of the evening, and having walked a colleague to the bus stop, he began to make his way back to his hotel. He was undoubtedly affected by drink.

“Shortly before the collision, CCTV captured him attempting to cross the four-lane carriageway at the junction of Legge Street and Corporation Street.

“This isn’t the type of road you might ordinarily expect a pedestrian to cross – including the bus lane, this is a four-lane carriageway which led to a central reservation, beyond which there is another carriageway to navigate.

“You may feel it is possible that Mr Mawdsley’s attempt to cross was influenced by drinking, or he was disorientated.

“The collision was captured by CCTV. Putting aside the obvious horror of the footage, you will see Mr Mawdsley was clearly visible to oncoming traffic – it is a well-lit area and although this is a busy carriageway, it is subject to a 30mph speed limit.

“Although you might not ordinarily expect to see pedestrians crossing, given the time of year, with people out celebrating, you would expect drivers to be appropriately vigilant.”

Nash did not stop at the scene of the crash, but his black Ford Kuga was traced back to his address by police at around 3am the next morning.

Mr Bradley said: “Officers repeatedly banged the door – at first, there was no answer, so they started to recover the car. Despite the noise of the recovery, there was still no sign of the occupant.

“Eventually, after further knocking, Elliott Nash did open the door and by now it was around 3.20am.

“He told police that he was aware a person had struck his car. He said he drove home and started drinking. There were empty bottles of brandy and rum.

“He was breathalysed and was over the limit but it was not possible to say if he was over limit at the time of the crash. Officers also took a drug swipe which was positive for cannabis, consistent with use before the crash.”

Three men were sentenced at Birmingham Crown Court (Rui Vieira/PA)
Elliott Nash is on trial at Birmingham Crown Court (Rui Vieira/PA)

After his arrest, Nash told police he was “under the impression” he was insured on the vehicle.

Mr Bradley said: “I am going to pause there, because he was not insured, and had not been since October, two months previous, and should not have on that road in the first place.

“He said he knew the speed limit was 30mph and said he was doing about 30mph. In fact, members of the jury, he was doing somewhere between 43mph and 46mph when he struck Mr Mawdsley.

“He said he first became aware of the pedestrian when they were in front of the vehicle about 10 metres ahead of him. He carried on driving and Mr Mawdsley clipped the back of his car.

“Significantly, he told police he was aware that the impact dropped the pedestrian to the floor, he said he saw this happen, either in his rear view or his wing mirror.

“Despite this, he didn’t stop, saying on one hand he was in shock, on the other, he didn’t think it was a serious incident that warranted involving the emergency services.

“He said he thought the vehicles behind would stop, giving Mr Mawdsley the chance to get up – make of that what you will.”

Nash denied smoking cannabis before the collision, saying he had only smoked a spliff when he returned home at around 10.30m – a claim experts disagree with.

Mr Bradley said Nash has already pleaded guilty to driving without insurance and failing to stop at the scene of a collision at a previous hearing.

He told the jury: “The prosecution say this man’s driving clearly and obviously contributed to the death of Mr Mawdsley and his actions afterwards, driving home and failing to alert the emergency services, occurred because he knew he contributed to what he must have known was a near certain fatality.”

The trial, in front of Judge Sarah Buckingham, continues.