Bereaved father blasts ‘mockery of justice’ block on jail term increase bid
The father of a girl whose death was caused by an “arrogant” dangerous driver has called the blocking of legal moves to increase his jail term a “mockery of justice”.
Cerys Edwards, then just turned one, was left unable to breathe unaided and needing 24-hour specialist care after the car she was in was struck by a Range Rover Sport on November 11, 2006.
She died in October 2015, a month before her 10th birthday, after complications caused by an infection.
The driver of the powerful Range Rover, Antonio Boparan, then 19 but now 32, pleaded guilty to causing her death by dangerous driving at a hearing last month.
He was handed an 18-month jail term, but will only serve half in prison before his release on licence.
Immediately following the sentencing, a member of the public applied to the Attorney General’s Office to refer the sentence to the Court of Appeal, under the terms of the unduly lenient sentence scheme.
However, the Attorney General’s office said on Monday that following “careful consideration”, the case would not be referred.
“The threshold is a high one, and the test was not met in this case,” said a spokesman.
Reacting to the decision, Cerys’ father Gareth Edwards told the Press Association: “It’s just a mockery of the justice system.
“But I’ve learned not to expect too much, then I don’t have so far to come down, when I’ve been let down.
“At the end of the day, he (Boparan) is in prison.”
Mr Edwards had supported the legal application, but was not its author – who remains a mystery.
Boparan was charged with causing Cerys’ death by dangerous driving in 2018.
That decision came after medical experts concluded her death was a direct consequence of her high spinal cord and traumatic brain injury “sustained in collision”.
Boparan was speeding at 71mph in a 30mph limit in Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, on November 11, 2006, when he crashed.
Having overtaken at least two other cars, he ploughed head-on into a Jeep Cherokee driven by Cerys’ mother Tracey.
Her husband Mr Edwards was a front-seat passenger and their little girl was securely fastened in a rear car seat.
However, Cerys sustained what one doctor described as a “catastrophic severance of the high spinal cord” and was left brain damaged.
Father-of-two Boparan was subsequently jailed at Birmingham Crown Court on March 7 this year after admitting the offence.
Judge Melbourne Inman QC, sentencing, said he had shown “an arrogant disregard for the safety of others” when he drove that day, causing “catastrophic” injuries to little Cerys.
His barrister told the court it had been a “stupid and immature piece of bad driving”, but that the “boy of 19 was not the man of 32”.
The court also heard both his client and Boparan’s millionaire businessman father Ranjit Singh Boparan had since raised £10 million over 10 years, through setting up the Boparan Charitable Trust for children with disabilities.
Following the 2006 crash and subsequent campaigning by Cerys’ parents and others, the maximum sentence for causing serious injury by dangerous driving was increased from two to five years.
Boparan had first been jailed for 21 months on being convicted after trial of causing serious injury, but served only six months.
During her short lifetime, Cerys developed complications and had a catalogue of complex needs.
That resulted in her admission in September 2014 to Birmingham Children’s Hospital for a deteriorating respiratory condition.
She never left hospital again, and died just over a year later.
Her parents split up before her death.
Mr Edwards said he took comfort from the change to legislation, though he said it came “too late for Cerys”.
He said: “I am disappointed but at the end of the day, you’ve got to move on.
“I spent the last three years fighting for him (Boparan) to be charged.
“Prior to that, it was seven or eight years fighting for the new law.”
Mr Edwards, who visits his daughter’s grave twice a week, added: “The irony is, had Boparan done what he did to Cerys with the new law in force, he would probably have served more time behind bars than he will have.
“He’ll have effectively gone to prison for a total of 15 months, for killing a child.
“But I remember Cerys how she was. She’ll never be forgotten.”
An Attorney General’s Office spokesman said: “After careful consideration, the Solicitor General has concluded that he could not refer this case to the Court of Appeal.
“A referral under the Unduly Lenient Sentence scheme to the Court of Appeal can only be made if a sentence is not just lenient but unduly so, such that the sentencing judge made a gross error or imposed a sentence outside the range of sentences reasonably available in the circumstances of the offence.
“The threshold is a high one, and the test was not met in this case.”
In 2017, just under a third of the cases eligible for review by an appeal judge were taken forward.