Van driver jailed for killing teenage apprentice in crash on Bedford bypass after smoking cannabis

Benjamin Norman was jailed for nine years.
Credit: Bedfordshire Police
Benjamin Norman was jailed for nine years. Credit: Bedfordshire Police

A van driver has been jailed for nine years for crashing and killing his 19-year-old apprentice while more than twice over the limit cannabis .

After the crash on the A421 Bedford bypass Benjamin Norman, 41, asked another driver at the scene: “What am I going to say to his parents?”

Luton Crown Court heard Norman was driving at 70mph when he lost control of the white van for 10 to 15 seconds and drifted across two lanes of a dual carriageway, before smashing into a parked lorry in a layby.

The roofer suffered only minor injuries but 19-year-old Thomas Smith from Kempston, Beds was pronounced dead at the scene.

The crash happened between Cardington and Great Barford at around 7.15am on 1 November 2018 .

Norman, of Wootton in Bedfordshire, was convicted of causing death by careless driving while over the prescribed limit for cannabis.

Thomas Smith died at the scene. Credit: Family photo

At the trial in January prosecutor Charles Ward-Jackson said: “A number of motorists stopped to offer assistance and it was quickly established that Thomas Smith had sadly died.

“A lorry driver, Richard Hull, was parked on the other side of the road and crossed to speak to the defendant. The defendant was shocked and said something like: ‘What am I going to say to his parents? I can’t believe I am sat here and he is gone.'”

When he was asked by police to take a drug test at the scene Norman said: “I will fail that. I had a smoke [cannabis] last night.”

He told officers: “I have no idea what happened. I am pretty sure I was in the fast lane. I don’t know if I fell asleep or blacked out.”

He was found to have 5.5 mg of cannabis per litre of blood. The legal limit is 2mg.

When questioned by the police he made no comment.

The defence case was that Benjamin Norman had not taken cannabis that morning and lost control of the van because he was suffering from epilepsy that had not been diagnosed at that time.

'We have lost a best friend'

In a tribute his family said Tom, as he was known, was a “very loving and caring boy.”

His mother Lyndsey told the judge: “This has destroyed me as a person. I have anxiety and depression. Tom’s death drastically affected our family. We not only a family member, we have lost a best friend.”

Prosecutor Peter Shaw said that Norman had been in the habit of smoking cannabis while driving despite the protests of the victim.

Defending, Alesdair King said that since the crash Norman has been diagnosed with epilepsy and has surrendered his driving licence.

Sentencing him to nine years Judge Lynn Tayton QC told Norman: "This was not an isolated incident. You were someone who would habitually drive after consuming cannabis.”