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BEHIND BARS: Driver who failed to replace worn tyres sentenced for role in fatal Redbourn collision

 Published on: 20th December 2021   |   By: Court Reporter   |   Category: Uncategorized

A driver who was warned his car’s rear tyres were near the legal limit, drove for a further 7,000 miles on them, until the vehicle was involved in a fatal road collision because they were worn and bald.

Three months after receiving the advice from MOT staff, Henry Reynolds’ car wasn’t able to cope with wet road conditions, and after “fishtailing,” it slammed head on into another vehicle killing its driver and seriously injuring his mother in a crash in Redbourn.

Reynolds was not driving his car at the time, but sitting in the passenger seat because he had been drinking.

But because he knew that his tyres were illegal at the time making his car unroadworthy, he was prosecuted in a land mark case on Friday, December 17.

Jailing 31-year-old Reynolds for two years and six months, Judge Michael Kay QC sitting at St Albans Crown Court, told him: “The MOT brought to your attention that the tyres were very close to being illegal. You drove a further 7,000 miles on those tyres.

“You knew the effect the tyres were having on the vehicle in wet weather and caused fishtailing. This car was unroadworthy and should not have been on the road.

“You were not driving the vehicle, but you were allowing someone else to drive the car when it was unroadworthy and in a dangerous state.”

Reynolds, an unemployed father of two, pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting causing the death of 36-year-old Winston Chau by dangerous driving.

He further admitted aiding and abetting causing serious injury to Mr Chau’s mother, Cam Chau who was 57 at the time, by his dangerous driving

She had been a front passenger in her son’s Honda Civic car on the night on May 12, 2018 (correct) when Reynolds’ black Mercedes ploughed head on into it at speed after witness saw it “fishtailing” moments before the collision.

Judge Kay said that there were no sentencing guidelines for aiding and abetting causing death by dangerous driving.

He said that barristers for the prosecution and the defence had searched “high and low” for other cases similar to one before him.

“None can be found and it’s an unusual case and presents a difficult sentencing problem,” he said.

The court heard the crash occurred shortly after 9 45pm on the A5138 St Albans Road at Redbourn in Herts.

Earlier Mr Chau, who worked for easyJet as a cabin crew training planning officer and his mother had been at a party in St Albans for his three-year-old niece, and he was driving north to take her to her home in Redbourn.

Judge Kay was told it had been raining for much of the day at the time there was light drizzle and the road surface was wet.

Heading south at the time was the defendant, Mr Reynolds, who was sitting in the front passenger seat after allowing his friend, 28-year-old TJ Sam Quirke to drive.

The pair had spent much of the day together with their families and that evening the pair had gone out to get some takeaway food in St Albans. Both men had been drinking.

CCTV from a garage showed the Mercedes ‘fishtailed’ as it went around a roundabout. Quirke, who was over the drink drive limit then accelerated to between 65 to 72 mph in a 30mph zone as it passed the Shell garage.

Witnesses in vehicles behind the Honda said they could see the approaching Mercedes fishtailing

It suddenly veered to the right into the oncoming lane, slamming head on into the Honda with fatal consequences

At the time of the impact the Mercedes was travelling between 43 and 53mph, causing the Honda to spin 180 degrees.

Judge Kay said it was likely Quirke, who he said had been driving the car “hard and aggressively,” had overcorrected the steering.

“It led to fishtailing because of the lack of grip between the tyres and the road,” said the judge.

Mr Chau died at the scene and his mother was removed from the wreckage of the Honda and rushed to hospital.

She had suffered life-changing injuries including a massive abdominal trauma and internal injuries including damage to her liver and bowel.

In addition she had suffered broken ribs, a broken wrist, a fractured sternum and facial injuries.

Prosecutor Corinne Bramwell told how three months before the crash Reynolds had taken his car for its MOT. It had passed, but he had been advised that the tread on the two rear tyres was getting close to the limit.

But Reynolds of High Street, London Colney took no steps to change the tyres, which by the time of the crash were illegal.

In fact the court was told he had driven a further 6,726 miles after the MOT.

Judge Kay said the view of experts was that the Mercedes was “unroadworthy,” and the state of the tyres contributed to the collision.

“You would have known the tyres were not fit to be driven on,” said the judge and the court heard that in a police interview, Reynolds told officers he knew the car could fishtail in wet conditions.

In November of last year Quirke, the man who had been driving the Honda that night, was jailed for five years and three months after pleading guilty to causing death by dangerous driving, causing serious injury by dangerous driving , drink driving and having no insurance.

Quirke, a refuse driver of Down Edge, Redbourn was also disqualified for 87 months.

Reynolds had originally pleaded not guilty to the aiding and abetting charges, and at the end of a trial in December 2019 the jury couldn’t agree on its verdicts.

Following that trial experts for both the prosecution and defence were asked to look at the evidence regarding the rear tyres on the Mercedes, and jointly concluded that the state they were in that night contributed to the collision.

In September of this year, Reynolds pleaded guilty to both the offences in a plea hearing and the matter was adjourned for sentence.

When he appeared back at the crown court on Friday to learn his fate, Judge Kay was told that in July of 2020 Reynolds had been convicted of drink driving for which he was disqualified from driving

The judge said: “That conduct beggars belief. It’s astounding, staggering that you could get into a vehicle and drive having drunk alcohol.”

Liam Laughlin defending said Reynolds had suffered PTSD since the crash and was “extremely sorry and remorseful.”

Sentencing Reynolds the judge told him the tyres were so worn in places that the core structure was exposed.

He said Reynolds had driven for a considerable distance following the advice given to him at the MOT “on what were bald tyres”

He went on: “That defect reduced the tyres ability to disperse surface water and reduced grip.”

The judge said the view of the experts was that the Mercedes was “unroadworthy” at the time of the collision and should never have been on the road with the tyres in such a poor state and with such a low tread depth.

He jailed Reynolds for a total of 30 months and disqualified him from driving for four years and three months.

The judge said Mr Chau was much loved by all his family and friends and what happened was a “terrible tragedy.”

Following his death his employers, easyJet, paid tribute to him by naming one of its planes after him.

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