Widow uses giant billboard outside South Yorkshire Police HQ to call for smart motorway prosecution

The widow of a man killed in a smart motorway collision near Sheffield is using a billboard outside South Yorkshire Police’s HQ to call for Highways England to be prosecuted.

By Claire Lewis
Tuesday, 2nd March 2021, 7:41 am

Claire Mercer has arranged for a giant screen to be erected outside the police headquarters on what would have been her husband’s birthday.

Jason Mercer, 44, from Rotherham and Alexandru Murgeanu, 22, from Mansfield, were killed when a lorry driven by 40-year-old Prezemyslaw Szuba crashed into them after they stopped to exchange details following a minor collision where there is no hard shoulder near Sheffield in June 2019.

Szuba was jailed for 10 months for causing death by careless driving but after his court case, Mr Mercer’s wife said the wrong person was prosecuted because smart motorways should never have been given the go-ahead.

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L-R: Jason Mercer and Alexandru Murgeanu died on the M1 smart motorway near Sheffield in June 2019

She is pressing for Highways England to be prosecuted for corporate manslaughter and is urging South Yorkshire Police to take action.

After holding an inquest into the deaths of Mr Mercer and Mr Murgeanu, Sheffield Coroner David Urpeth vowed to write to Highways England and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to ask for a review of smart motorways after ruling that the lack of a hard shoulder ‘contributed’ to the deaths.

Mrs Mercer’s lawyers have written to South Yorkshire’s Chief Constable, Stephen Watson, demanding an investigation.

Her solicitor, Neil Hudgell, said: “The fact is that Highways England has been aware of the obvious risk of removing hard shoulders on motorways yet has continued to expand the network.

“It has been demonstrated by statistics that the risks presented by stationary vehicles have increased by the use of smart motorways.

“All of these facts ought to have been known before the death of Jason.”

South Yorkshire Police said: “A Senior Investigating Officer has been assigned to this matter, and will be overseeing the review of all the materials obtained. At this time, we have not yet received the evidence from Mr Mercer and Mr Murgeanu’s inquest.

“This activity will allow SYP to ascertain whether a crime has been committed, with a view to the possible commencement of criminal proceedings.

“SYP remains in close consultation with the Health and Safety Executive and the Crown Prosecution Services.”