Three-year jail sentence for St Albans double-decker bus driver
PUBLISHED: 09:21 27 January 2016 | UPDATED: 09:21 27 January 2016
A Uno bus driver from St Albans seen ‘nodding’ behind the steering wheel has been jailed for three years after pleading guilty to three offences of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.
Yesterday (Tuesday) in St Albans Crown Court, Modecai Juma, 42, of Maxwell Road, was also disqualified from driving for five years and told he must take an extended driving test before he gets behind the wheel of a vehicle again.
Prosecutor John Carmichael told how the collision occurred on October 20, 2014, at about 8.20am close to the South Mimms roundabout at the junction with the A1(M) and M25.
Juma had been driving a packed double-decker, and was seen to be nodding behind the wheel just moments before it crashed into an oncoming car and flipped onto its side.
The court heard how the bus was on a long left hand bend of the A1081 approaching the South Mimms roundabout when Juma’s head dropped forward and the vehicle crossed the central white line.
Coming in the opposite direction in her white Vauxhall Corsa was Cheryl Painter from Borehamwood, who was driving her seven year old son Harry to school in Potters Bar.
Judge Mark Dennis QC, hearing the case, heard how Mrs Painter was unable to avoid the bus and it collided with her car before veering back onto the other side of the road where it toppled onto its side.
As a result of the collision she suffered a double fracture of the spine, a broken arm, collapsed lung and perforated bowel as well as leg injuries. Luckily, her son escaped without any serious injury.
On board the bus, people were thrown on top of each other as it flipped on its side. Passengers suffered cuts and bruises, broken teeth and broken fingers.
Eight people suffered serious injuries, including one woman who suffered a double fracture of her pelvis.
At the time of the crash, 99 passengers were crammed inside the bus - seven more than should have been.
After his arrest Juma told traffic police investigators he had had just four hours sleep the night before after going to a friend’s home to drink vodka.
The court was told Juma had started work earlier than morning, taking the Uno double decker Scania bus from its depot at Hatfield down to Edgware in North London.
He had arrived for work late that morning and as a result was allocated a different bus than he had expected to be driving.
The prosecutor said that during the journey Juma, who was wearing wraparound dark glasses, was seen to argue with passengers and was speeding and braking harshly. The bus was swerving from side to side and passengers thought Juma was cutting up other motorists.
The barrister said that many of the passengers that morning felt unsafe as: “He was seen counting out bank notes, transferring them from one pocket to the other pocket”.
One passenger was to tell the police after the crash: “I have never experienced anything like it before. It was as if the driver was not in control.”
Another male passenger standing close to the driver was concerned to see Juma’s head kept dropping forward so that his chin ended up on his chest.
When it happened the passenger was to tell police he was aware of the bus drifting before Juma would correct its direction.
A fleet of ambulances arrived on the scene to find shocked and dazed passengers climbing through broken windows out of the bus.
Ambulance crews ferried the injured to hospital and Juma was arrested.
Tested to see if he had alcohol in his system, the result was negative, but in an interview that afternoon he told police he had been playing golf the day before and had drunk a pint of cider.
He claimed he had drunk a glass of vodka when he got home and later in the evening had gone to a friend’s home, where he had drunk more vodka.
During the interview he told officers: “I felt exhausted from the day, maybe even the week.”
He estimated he had had around four hours sleep the night before.
The court heard he had a speeding offence from 2014 for which he had received three penalty points and his licence had been endorsed. In August of last year he had had been disqualified from driving for a year and fined for an offence of drink driving.
Following the sentencing, Adrian Foster, Chief Crown Prosecutor for Thames and Chiltern Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said: ”Juma initially claimed the collision was a result of a faulty steering wheel, but at St Albans Crown Court, due to the strength of evidence against him, and recognising that justice had caught up with him, he pleaded guilty to three counts of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.
“The fact that Juma was driving in a professional capacity, in rush hour and the passengers had entrusted him with their lives greatly increases the seriousness of this incident.
“The consequences could have been even more serious than they actually were and highlight the dangers of driving while tired. Too little sleep radically affects your ability to drive safely, increasing reaction times, decreasing attention, and reducing your ability to control the vehicle.
“We have worked closely with Herts Police since this investigation began and, as a result of the hard work and diligence of the prosecution team, a just outcome has been achieved. We hope that the conviction and today’s sentence bring those involved at least a small sense that justice has been done and that those injured continue with their recovery. Our thoughts are very much with them all at this time.”