Radio Sandwell Local News

Man tells of 'love' for driver who killed his brother in car crash

2015-05-16 08:49:08

James BarnettJames Barrett, who caused the death of his best friend Haroon Raja in a 100mph M6 crash.

The family of a man killed by his best friend in a 100mph M6 crash have told of their "love" for the driver.

Haroon Raja’s family begged a judge for leniency as James Barrett was sentenced over the horrific pile up involving an Audi Q7 SUV and a Tesco delivery truck.

Mr Raja, aged 33 and from Yardley, was a passenger in the Audi and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Truck driver Mark Berry also suffered serious injuries as his lorry was flipped over by the impact, eventually coming to rest on the hard shoulder near Solihull.

Most of his ribs were fractured and he has never been able to return to work.

In a statement read to Birmingham Crown Court, Mr Raja’s brother said: “My family and I understand that James was driving the car at the time of the accident, and that he lost control of the vehicle causing the accident, and so must bear responsibility for the death of my brother, and the injuries to the truck driver.

“However, we feel that this is something that James will have to live with for the rest of his life, and can only imagine how hard this must be for him.

“My family and I have nothing but love and sympathy for James, and do not wish the court to grant a lengthy custodial sentence.

“This will not bring back Haroon, and we do not believe this would be what he would have wanted.

“James is a decent, upstanding young man with a bright future ahead of him, and we ask that the court show him leniency.”

Family man Barrett, 34, of Triumph Walk, Yardley, admitted causing death by dangerous driving and causing serious injury by dangerous driving.

West Midlands Police said the pair had been best friends since university and had been at another friend’s family function in Leicester the night before the collision, which happened at 5am on July 6 last year.

They had stayed late so that Mr Raja could eat before sunrise as it was the month of Ramadan.

Judge Roderick Henderson jailed Barrett for three years and four months,.

He told him: “There is a heartbreaking letter from his family, they show the most enormous generosity to you.

“They make the point, and it is always the case, whatever I do won’t bring him back.

“He was less than halfway through the life he could have been expected to lead.”

The court heard Barrett drove for long periods on the M6 north at around 100mph, at one point hitting 120mph.

CCTV footage of the smash, shown in court, captured the A7 speeding.

The vehicle approached the Tesco truck, driven by Mr Berry, between Junctions 4 and 4a, before veering left and then right in an effort to avoid a collision.

The front passenger side ploughed into the back of the truck, flipping it over.

After the Audi came to a standstill, Barrett was seen getting out and trying to attend to his friend.

A breath-test showed he was just below the drink-drive limit.

But the judge said drink had been a factor in Barrett possibly falling asleep at he wheel, waking just moments before the crash,

He told him: “You were driving at a substantially excessive speed.

“Drink was not a central factor but must have contributed to your poor judgement and drowsiness.”

Alexander Stein, defending, said Barrett had shown real remorse.

“This is a very sad case, there aren’t any winners in cases like this.

“Whatever his culpability, which he accepts, he did not set out to cause horrific injuries to Mr Raja or Mr Berry.

“He really does hold genuine remorse.”

Acting Sgt Adam Green, of West Midlands Police's collision investigation unit, said: “This was a tragic set of circumstances which led to a young man’s death and a prison sentence for another.

“Both men had promising careers ahead of them and both families have been left devastated.

“I cannot express deeply enough how important it is to follow the speed limits set on our highways, they are there for a reason.

“This is especially important in the early hours of the morning when drivers can be tired and reactions slower.”

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