RoadPeace member Julie Jarvis has shared her experience with the justice system following the loss of her husband. If you have a story you would like to share, please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org
On the morning of 26th February 2022 my world changed forever with a knock on the door from 2 police officers. They informed me that my wonderful husband Kevin had been killed in a collision on the M6 motorway where he was working. This is my story…
Julie and Kevin Jarvis
Kevin and I met in 2009 when he was staying at the hotel where I was working as a receptionist. He worked in the Traffic Management industry as a self employed Traffic Safety Control Officer and was one of several highways workers staying there whilst working on a local section of the M6. Kevin was originally from Southampton and with the contract due to end in February 2010, he was already looking for his next job and was keen to base himself in the central area for better work opportunities. As I was born and bred in the West Midlands, he asked me to help with his search for rented accommodation in the area. I think we both knew where this was going and 6 weeks after our first date on Xmas eve, he moved in with me.
We were so happy together, both of us had previous failed marriages and we were in our late 40’s so not exactly loves young dream but a much more deeper relationship that encompassed love, trust, respect, friendship & companionship. In 2011 Kevin asked me to marry him and I said yes! We were married in a civil ceremony on 12th May 2012 at the very hotel where we met. It was a small, simple wedding but the most amazing, unforgettable day.
I was still working part time and Kevin’s work took him away from home at times. It was at this point we decided to buy a caravan so that I could travel with him sometimes when he was working away. Even though he was working, we still got to visit some lovely places on our travels with our 2 dogs in tow!
During our time together, we welcomed 5 grandchildren and 3 new dogs into our lives. Kevin was a fantastic stepdad and grandad, everyone adored him. Since around 2015 when the first of our grandchildren arrived, Kevin was working locally and our caravan became ‘for pleasure’ rather than ‘business’. We went away most weekends and enjoyed some amazing holidays in Cornwall every summer. In September 2021 he went to work on a long term contract in Cornwall just days after our twin grandsons had been born 11 weeks prematurely. It was a difficult 3 months for the family with both babies needing to stay in hospital and 3 other grandchildren to care for. Kevin was working away for 8 days and only home on his 4 days off. My son & daughter in law were due to get married in February which sort of took a back seat whilst we were all focussing on the twins progress. Thankfully they were able to come home in November but during this difficult time I was unable to travel to Cornwall with Kevin. So with everything now going full steam ahead with the wedding plans, Kevin made the decision to leave the job and return to work locally at the start of the new year. The wedding took place on the 24th February 2022, we all stayed over at the hotel and enjoyed breakfast with family & friends the next morning to share our thoughts on the wonderful event the day before. And this is where the story changes…
Kevin worked night shifts so, after a quiet day reflecting on the wedding, he got ready for work. I was looking at the wedding pictures on my phone when he came into the room suited & booted in his Hi-Vis work gear. I was looking at the photos of him the previous day in his suit and thinking how handsome he looked…it was very rare to see Kevin in anything other than his work clothes as he worked so many hours. He said his usual “bye then” with a quick kiss and I watched him walk across the front garden to his car. That was the last time I saw or heard him.
I woke up at about 7am the next morning and as I got out of bed, force of habit made me look out of the window and I saw his car wasn’t there, he wasn’t home yet. This wasn’t too much out of the ordinary as it had happened before when there had been a major incident on the motorway and he had stayed on after his shift to help. So I let the dogs out, made a cup of tea and went back to bed. I was scrolling through Facebook for any local news posts about incidents on the motorway section he was working on and I saw several posts saying that the M6 between J14 & J15 was closed due to a police incident. Ah, I thought, that’s where he is, there’s obviously been a major collision on his patch and he’s working with the police & other highways officials. I didn’t ring him as I knew he wouldn’t be able to talk or even answer his phone if he was busy. It was around 10am when the 2 police officers knocked my door and gave me the news that he had been killed in a collision. They asked me if I wanted them to call anyone and I gave them my sons number and asked them to tell him as I couldn’t speak through the shock. When they passed the phone to me, he summed up everything I, and probably every single person that’s ever been given this news, was feeling…..”Is this really happening?”.
I had to wait for a police Family Liason Officer to visit me before I got more information about what had happened. I was told how the police were pursuing the driver of an Audi A8 which had been stolen from the West Midlands about 45 minutes earlier and the driver was refusing to stop. In his efforts to escape the police, he was driving dangerously at speeds reaching 130mph. Kevin was sitting in his highways vehicle, with the amber beacons illuminated, completing his records of the roadworks site check. This was a task he did at the beginning & end of every shift and, as usual, he was parked on the hard shoulder of a closed lane. In another bid to escape the pursing police the driver swung his car into the closed lane via a gap in the cones for works vehicles and almost immediately collided with Kevin’s car. It is estimated he was travelling at a speed of 100mph when he collided with Kevin’s vehicle at 5.15am. Two of the police officers immediately went to Kevin and found there was no sign of him breathing and they could not find a pulse in his neck. They considered CPR but, due to the substantial damage the impact had caused to the car, they could not get any of the doors open and Kevin was trapped in the vehicle. The car had crumpled like a concertina, the back wheels & bumper were forced so far forward by the impact that they were under the front seats. Kevin was declared deceased at the scene at 5.30pm.
Kevin had worked in Traffic Management for over 30 years, he was a highly respected man and, as all the incoming tributes proved, a much loved colleague & friend to many many people, not just in our local area where he had been working most recently, but all over the country. How can one person driving a powerful car at unbelievable speeds cause such devastation? Obviously our immediate focus was on giving Kevin the send off he so deserved. In honour of his long standing traffic management career, he started his journey at the depot where he worked as it was important to me that he ‘finished’ his shift properly and left in a proper way rather than the way it was forced upon him by a dangerous driver with zero respect for another persons life. He was driven to the crematorium on the back of a highways vehicle with dozens of other highways vehicles following behind all with flashing orange beacons. In tribute, a small section of the M6 motorway was closed for the cortege to pass through. There was a sea of Hi-Vis and colour waiting for him at the crematorium, just as I had asked for. Kevin was anything but dull and sombre so it was our wish for the occasion to be a celebration of life and for people to wear anything they felt appropriate to reflect his life. We played his (and my) favourite Led Zeppelin song, plus his VERY secret guilty pleasure song which was Chiquitta by Abba (sorry for revealing that one to all your colleagues Kev!) He was waved off with his favourite Life’s been good to me by Joe Walsh. He loved that song and it was heartbreakingly so appropriate on the day.
By now, I knew the name of the driver and that he had been formally charged with causing death by dangerous driving and remanded in custody. He was to appear at Stafford Crown court on 1st April, which we attended. Now here comes the reality of our broken justice system because, for us, it began even before he was sentenced. The defendant was a Slovakian national who didn’t speak English so an interpreter was needed. Unfortunately an interpreter was not booked so the case was adjourned until 29th April. We attended court again and, once again there was an issue with the interpreter, it seems they had sent a Polish interpreter rather than a Slovakian one. It was also at this hearing that we learned of issues with the defendants immigration status which meant he would be appearing by video link as he was now in a London prison. During the hearing he became very agitated and aggressive which caused the judge to adjourn until the afternoon when it was hoped that the correct interpreter had been sourced. We couldn’t face going back so my family liason officer attended and reported back to us. Apparently the defendant came back with the same aggressive attitude and the judge set a trial date of 15th August 2022. Whilst waiting for the trial we learned that he was in the UK illegally due to a long expired visitors visa. We also learned he was wanted by the police in Slovakia and a European arrest warrant was issued for him.
Two days before the trial was due to start we got the news that it had been adjourned. Further enquiries revealed that the defence had questioned the defendants fitness to plead & stand trial, hence 2 independent psychiatric reports were ordered by the judge, one from the defence and one from the prosecution. The prosecution submitted their reports in July, however the defence had not been able to complete theirs so case was adjourned until 29th Sept. It was also at this stage that we were told that the defendant had been arrested and charged with assaulting 2 PCSO’s at Birmingham station in Nov 2021 and was awaiting a court appearance to enter a plea. Why was his immigration status not discovered during this process? So, here is a snapshot of the court process from the start up till the sentencing hearing finally on 20th October 2023…
April 1st – adjourned due to issue with interpreter
April 29th – defendant refused to enter a plea and judge set trial date of 15th August 2022
15th August – adjourned 2 days before due to reports not completed and the emergence of the charges relating to the November 2021 incident.
Sept 29th – adjourned due to psychiatric reports not completed by the defence
Oct 20th – adjourned for same reason
Dec 20th – reports still not completed but judge sets trial date of 17th April 2023
17th April – Two days prior to this date, again we receive notice that it has been adjourned again due to reports still not being completed.
April 20th – Psychiatrist attends appointment at the prison to conduct reports but interpreter fails to attend.
April 28th – rebooked visit by psychiatrist to conduct reports but again the interpreter fails to attend.
May 5th – Reports still not completed and judge informs defence that he will now accept a verbal report as this cannot continue indefinitely and sets another trial date of July 3rd
Sometime in May, the reports are finally completed and a plea hearing is set for 16th June.
16th June- Defendant is produced at court and pleads guilty to causing Kevin’s death by dangerous driving, also pleads guilty to wounding with intent and theft of a motor vehicle (the Audi belonged to a fellow Slovakian who was known to him and who had been stabbed by the defendant before he stole the car} Pleads not guilty to the assault charge which was subsequently dropped. Sentencing hearing was set for 15th Sept with relevant pre sentencing reports requested by the judge.
September 11th – 4 days before the sentencing hearing we are notified of yet another adjournment due to reports not being completed. Further enquires revealed that these were probation service reports which on the day they due to be done could not go ahead as an interpreter had not been booked for the visit.
20th October 2023 – the defendant was sentenced to 9 years for causing death by dangerous driving plus a further 3.5 years for wounding with intent. Obviously a deportation order was also issued.
Throughout this entire 20 months of waiting to see justice served, the criminal driver has shown no remorse for his actions, furthermore he has no concept of what he has done and doesn’t even know why he’s in prison. I watched him at the hearing, it was the first time I had seen him in person as previously he had always been on a video link. People questioned how I could do that, I don’t actually know how I did it but I know I couldn’t take my eyes off this person who had robbed me of the most important person in my life in such an horrific, and needless, way.
Kevin & I will never enjoy our retirement years together, his stepsons will never enjoy the positivity & guidance he brought into their lives, my grandchildren will never know the fun times that were ahead with their beloved grandad, his brother & sisters have been robbed of a much loved sibling and his friends will never enjoy the simple pleasures of sharing laughs over a pint or two in the pub. All because one person decided his own escape, which was never going happen anyway, was worth more than the life he ended and the lives he subsequently devastated. Sadly the date of the offence came before the change in sentencing guidelines hence only 9 years. Even if it had been under the new guidelines, although I think the judge would have imposed a longer sentence, I doubt it would have been the life sentence he deserved. I cannot get my head around the fact that criminals who take lives with a knife, gun or other object utilised as a weapon, are charged with murder and potentially get life sentences. Yet using 2 tons of motorised metal at speeds of 130mph as a weapon is called causing death by dangerous driving. As I said to my FLO that charge should end at ‘causing death’. Full stop. When is the justice system going to recognise this and served the appropriate sentences? And, in my case, when is the justice system going to put the needs of the devastated families first and give them the right to see justice served in a reasonable amount of time? When are the victims rights going to come before the criminals rights?
I cannot let this blog be all about a criminal driver, Kevin deserves more than that. I was blessed to have this wonderful, kind, generous, caring man in my life. We all were. There are days, and I think there always will be, when I lose myself for a minute and still expect him to walk through the door with that cheeky grin on his face. He was a very funny man with an amazing sense of humour. He was the most honourable man I have ever met, his calmness & clarity in the most stressful situations was simply a blessing. A beautiful soul with a heart of gold who crammed so much into his 57 years and I speak for everyone when I say our lives would have been poorer without him in it, even if it was for an all too short time. And our lives will never heal from the suddenness & tragedy of losing him.
Tragically, I have to conclude that there will always be those who get behind the wheel of a car and think they can drive however & wherever they want because they are untouchable. But there is so much more that can be done to address this and hopefully it will be. No one should ever leave their house & family, or go to work, and never come home. The irony of a man, who’s job it was to help keep the roads safe, losing his life whilst doing that work should not be lost on anyone especially the justice system.
We love you so very much Kevin Jarvis, hope you know that because you are missed beyond words or measure.
Below is a poem written by Julie to honour Kevin and highlight the dangers facing road workers
Updated on: 23 January 2024