Banbury man pleads guilty in horror crash

Banbury delivery driver Alan Springall
Banbury delivery driver Alan Springall

A Banbury delivery driver failed to notice an oncoming motorcyclist as he made a right turn towards a south Warwickshire village, pulling across into the rider’s path.

That led to a ‘devastating impact’ as Matthew Brain’s Triumph Daytona hit the rear nearside of the Tesco delivery van, throwing him into the road where he was declared dead at the scene.

Tesco driver Alan Springall pleaded not guilty at Warwick Crown Court to causing death by dangerous driving following the incident on the B4100 at Warmington in south Warwickshire.

At a further hearing Springall (61) of Goodrington Close, Banbury, pleaded guilty to an alternative offence of causing 26-year-old Matthew’s death by careless driving.

He was given a 12-month community order and ordered to do 140 hours of unpaid work and banned from driving for 12 months.

Prosecutor Matthew Barnes said that at around 6.45 on Thursday August 31 last year Springall was driving a Tesco home delivery van along the B4100 on his way to make a delivery in the village of Warmington.

Coming from the direction of Banbury, with a Ford Focus behind his Mercedes Sprinter van, Springall, who had been driving for Tesco for eight years, was going to make a right turn into Village Road.

Meanwhile Mr Brain, an experienced rider from Moreton-in-Marsh, was coming from the direction of Warwick, approaching the scene around a long right-hand bend, on his way home.

“The collision happened when the Mercedes turned right across the carriageway, and Mr Springall did not see Mr Brain coming in his direction on a motorbike.

“It appears that he slowed down appropriately, and the motorcycle came round the bend on the correct side of the road, but it has to be acknowledged he was exceeding the speed limit, probably doing 70 and reducing his speed before the collision.

“As the defendant turned across the lane, the motorcycle collided with the rear nearside of the van, and Mr Brain was thrown from his motorcycle into the path of the Focus. It was a devastating impact, and he was declared dead at the scene.”

Mr Barnes said a collision expert who examined the dash-cam from the Tesco van said the bike would have been in view for about three seconds before the collision and, more significantly, for 0.6 of a second before Springall began to turn.

When Springall was spoken to at the scene, he said he believed the road was clear, adding that he had checked his mirror to make sure the car behind was not overtaking him.

Judge Sylvia de Bertodano observed: “Had the motorcycle been travelling, as he could have expected it to be, at 50, he would have had time to complete the manoeuvre.”

Mark Laprell, defending, conceded: “That would have applied if he had seen it and thought he could get across, but he never saw it.”

Matthew’s father Robert Brain said in a statement that the family’s life changed for ever that day, and he continues to feel numb over the death of his son, an underwriter who had just taken the step of buying his own home with his partner.

Mr Laprell said Springall, who was an evening driver for the Tesco store in Banbury, was familiar with the road, ‘did everything correctly except for that single failure to keep a proper look-out.’

“In those few seconds one life has been lost, and his life has been changed for ever.

“This did not arise out of someone deliberately taking chances, it came from a genuine error from a man who was trying to do his job properly.”

He said a defence expert’s opinion was that the motorbike had been doing 74-78mph, which was in line with the prosecution expert who gave a wider range of speed – and he commented: “Had it been doing even 60, the van would have cleared its path.”

Sentencing Springall, Judge de Bertodano told him: “You simply did not see him as he come into view, and therefore you did what you probably would not have done otherwise, and turned across his path.

“It is clear he would have been in your vision for just over half a second before you started to turn.

“Once you began the manoeuvre, the die was cast, and nothing could have been done.

“But it is right to say the second reason why you could not have avoided him is the speed at which the motorbike was being ridden. Had it been driven at the limit, the collision would not have occurred.

“The result was unimaginable tragedy for the Brain family. Matthew was a young man of 26 with all of his life ahead of him. This was a hard-working young man with everything to look forward to.

“You, on the other hand, are a 61-year-old man with no previous convictions. You are seen as a most decent and caring man. Nothing you or I can do can take away the pain Matthew’s family has to suffer.”

• Editor’s comment: The original headline has been changed, which stated that the defendant pleaded not guilty (to dangerous driving). While he did plead not guilty to dangerous driving, he did plead guilty to an alternative offence of causing death by careless driving.

We apologise for this error.