Speeding Leeds dad jailed for causing death of graduate Alice Birchall in head-on horror crash

Alice Birchall was killed in the collision in Leeds
-Credit: (Image: Birchall family)

The Leeds man who hurtled through streets at 100mph before colliding with and killing Alice Birchall has finally been put behind bars.

Jonathon Hopkinson, 35, had been with his young daughter at Franco's restaurant on the evening of June 18, 2022, before he got behind the wheel of his car and drove at "breathtaking" speeds.

Leeds Crown Court heard on Tuesday that Hopkinson, of Hollyshaw Lane, was spotted on a number of CCTV camera driving at "excessive speeds" in residential areas. Close to the time of the collision with 22-year-old Alice's Nissan Juke, Hopkinson was seen driving at 100mph in a 30mph limit.

Read more: Jonathon Hopkinson live court sentencing updates after causing Alice Birchall's death in Leeds horror crash

The court heard Alice - who had recently secured her dream job at a jewellers - had been allowed to leave work 15 minutes early and was close to her home in Cross Flatts when the crash happened on Manston Lane.

Prosecutor Michael Smith said Hopkinson was later found to be over the drink-drive limit, with 140ml of alcohol in 100ml of blood. He said: "Alice was a 22-year-old woman driving a Nissan Juke and she died two days later from catastrophic injuries she had suffered when the defendant's vehicle - travelling at grossly excessive speeds - hit her car head on on Manston Lane.

"The prosecution's case is he was exceeding the speed limit in often residential areas, often on the wrong side of the road, with his child in the car when he was over the limit for driving. Hopkinson's car collided with Alice's, the court heard.

Mr Smith said: "He had strayed into her lane entirely. This is an uphill slope. You will see that when the collision that occurred, although she was travelling at 30mph, when the collision occurred, it pushed her vehicle up the slope due to the speed his car was travelling..."

Alice Birchall, 22, was just about to start her dream job after graduating from her degree
Alice Birchall, 22, was just about to start her dream job after graduating from her degree -Credit:Birchall family

The vehicle was pushed back 75mph and rotated. "It's clear his excessive speed was the causal factor in the collision, meaning he veered on the carriageway and collided with her vehicle," Mr Smith added.

He said a number of eyewitnesses saw or heard the collision and saw or heard speeding prior. One described the car being "out of control" and "the fastest she had seen a car going before."

Footage of Hopkinson's car before the collision, as well as audio of it happening, were played to the court before Alice's aunt, Deborah Horsfall and sister, Amy Birchall, read powerful and emotional victim impact statements to the court. It was said Alice's father had died and her mother had fallen into alcoholism - even being convicted of drink driving herself - before she passed away.

The court heard Alice had taken on the role of carer for her younger sister Amy, and around a year before had moved into her own flat. The sisters were excited for their future together.

Amy said: "The senseless death of Alice has left a gaping hole in all of our lives. We all miss her positivity. We all miss her beautiful face. She was always happy and smiley. Age 17 and 20, we lost our mother to alcoholism. We were distraught...

"We had lost our only surviving parent and now knew we only had each other. Only the two of us could understand the pain and trauma we went. Anyone else would have given up on the idea of having a good life...Not Alice. She was determined to have a beautiful life.

"The love and absolute pride I have to be able to say that Alice Mary BIrchall was my sister. She was more than an inspiration to me and others. She was driving home from work, having handed in her notice the week before.

Alice in Knaresborough, taken by younger sister Amy
Alice in Knaresborough, taken by younger sister Amy -Credit:Birchall family

"Had she not been let home early she would not have been on the road at that time. Only five minutes away from home. The irony is sickening. Alice did everything she could to have a happy life." Amy said it was a "twisted irony" her sister had been killed by a drunk driver and added: "I will never forgive this."

The court heard Hopkinson had injured his own daughter in the collision. She suffered lacerations to her face, a broken nose which she had to undergo surgery for, and a fractured eye socket. Hopkinson himself also suffered injuries and had to be put into an induced coma.

It was said a man driving past the scene with his family leapt into action and pulled Hopkinson and his daughter from the Audi, which was in flames. He also managed to get Alice out of her car, but she died two days later.

Alistair Webster, defending Hopkinson, said: "It may be hard to take as a reality that he is a decent man. So those statements were very hard for him and he understands that nothing he can say in terms of remorse or profound apology for what he has done. It is something that will never leave him."

The court heard Hopkinson - who was convicted of speeding mere months after Alice's death, in October 2022 - indicated guilty pleas to the charges of causing death while dangerous driving and causing injury while dangerous driving at the earliest opportunity. Mr Webster said he was not charged for 19 months. In relation to the collision, he said: "He blames himself entirely."

It was said Hopkinson does not remember the collision. The court heard from Anna Duffy, a physiotherapist and psychotherapist who said she had been driven by Hopkinson before it happened. She described him as a "confident" driver and added: "I felt safe in the car with him."

Floral tributes left on Manston Road
Floral tributes left on Manston Road -Credit:Amy Birchall

She said: "This has affected him deeply. He cannot remember the crash and cannot comprehend why he would drive that way, especially with [his daughter] in the car. It's mind boggling."

His Honour Judge Tom Bayliss KC jailed Hopkinson for eight years, making him the subject of a 12-year driving disqualification. He said: "On the 18th June 2022, you Jonathon Hopkinson made a number of choices. You drove to drive when you were over the limit. You chose to carry your daughter as a passenger in the car. You chose to drive at grossly excessive speeds for some considerable distance.

"The speeds showed on the CCTV is breath taking...Ms Birchall was a much-loved, independent, resilient and determined young woman, who with her sister had experienced and overcome great personal tragedy and adversity. She was popular, she was devoted to her younger sister...The two of them had lost both parents, the two of them had built a future together...She did everything she could to build a life for herself and her sister..."

Speaking of the October 2022 speeding conviction, the judge said he accepted Hopkinson was only driving 34mph in a 30mph zone, but added: "Despite the consequences [of the collision which killed Alice], you were still exceeding the speed limits." At the end of the driving disqualification period, Hopkinson will have to undertake an extended driving test.

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