Chorley HGV driver James Majury jailed for causing deaths of child and teaching assistant by his dangerous driving while using his phone (WARNING: distressing images)
A HGV driver who ploughed his 19.2 tonne truck into a school minibus, killing two people, while distracted by his phone has been jailed for eight years and 10 months.
James Majury, 33, of Milton Road, Coppull, hit a line of queuing traffic on the M58 as motorists slowed for roadworks, killing pupil Joe Cairns, 14, from Bury, and teaching assistant Anne Kerr, 50, seriously injuring five other people and causing minor injuries to others caught up in the carnage.
Banning him from the road for nine years and 11 months, and imposing an extended retest, Judge Robert Altham said: " I should say this court deals with difficult, even tragic cases, on a regular basis, however this case with the two lost lives and so many other lives damaged, is, in terms of the harm caused, in a very particular bracket.
"In a split second those two lives were lost.
"Of course all human life is precious, but as we've heard from the moving testimonies of those close to Joe Cairns and Anne Kerr these were very precious individuals indeed and it's been plain from what we have heard that the loss of those individual has caused, and will cause forever, untold pain and suffering to those who are left behind to mourn them."
He said he had heard equally moving testimonies from those who were seriously injured by the "thoughtless criminality of this defendant".
The judge referred to a "terrible background" to the case, describing the 17 minutes before the accident in which Majury used phone apps and sent texts.
Majury said he had seen a warning sign that a lane the slip road to junction 3 of the M58 was closed.
However 50 seconds after opening his Facebook app he smashed into the Pontville School minibus
He said: " Despite being in charge of this heavy vehicle, the defendant was using his mobile phone but I don't just mean using his mobile to make a call or receive or send a text - it's important in this case I set out to the extent to which the defendant was using his mobile phone.
"The defendant's lack of attention was so great he only began braking 12 metres before he hit the minibus - wholly inadequate to effect any serious reduction in his speed."
He added: "The sad conclusion is that he didn't see the minibus or its precious occupants because he prioritised checking his Facebook over the safety of anybody else on the road that day.
"The defendant took a deliberate decision to ignore the rules of the road with an apparent disregard of the great danger he was causing to other people."
Referring to the moving statements read in person in court by Anne and Joe's families, Judge Altham told Majury their lives had been "laid waste" by him.
He thanked people who had made statements, remarking they had relived a terrible episode in their lives to produce the "profoundly upsetting" material to assist him.
Yesterday, before sentence was passed, James Ageros QCm defending, said he had been left suffering PTSD.
He added: "This is a young man, a family man, he's effectively a man of good character and this is quite certainly the worst thing he has ever done or will ever do.
"His mitigation comes from a point of sincerity not something merely confected for the court in order to reduce sentence.
"The effect of what he did stays with him, for what it's worth, every day. It's right to say he got to a point where he was suicidal."
He added when the accident happened Majury was himself "shocked" and "could not simply comprehend the enormity of his actions and the consequences."