Jury dis­charged after fail­ing to reach ver­dicts on Cheeki Rafiki death charges

Storm­force Coach­ing Limited and di­rec­tor Dou­glas Innes con­victed of fail­ing to op­er­ate the yacht safety

Practical Boat Owner - - News -

Ajury try­ing a com­pany boss over the deaths of four peo­ple on board the Cheeki Rafiki yacht has been dis­charged after fail­ing to reach ver­dicts on man­slaugh­ter charges, re­ports Ben Mitchell of the Press As­so­ci­a­tion.

Dou­glas Innes 42, of Whit­worth Cres­cent, Southamp­ton, and his com­pany, Storm­force Coach­ing Limited, were con­victed of fail­ing to op­er­ate the yacht in a safe manner, con­trary to Sec­tion 100 of the Mer­chant Ship­ping Act. How­ever, trial judge

Mr Jus­tice Dinge­mans dis­charged the jurors at Winch­ester Crown Court on 14 July after they were un­able to reach a de­ci­sion on the four man­slaugh­ter al­le­ga­tions, fol­low­ing four days of de­lib­er­a­tion.

Nigel Lick­ley QC, prose­cut­ing, said they would be seek­ing a re­trial on the four man­slaugh­ter charges, and Mr Jus­tice Dinge­mans re­leased Innes, a mar­ried fa­ther-of-two, on un­con­di­tional bail un­til a fu­ture hear­ing on a date to be set. Thank­ing the jury, which de­lib­er­ated for 21 hours, Mr Dinge­mans said: ‘I will dis­charge you from con­sid­er­ing any more the ver­dicts in this case. May I thank you very much for the sac­ri­fices you have made, your prompt attendance and the diligence and care you have taken when con­sid­er­ing this mat­ter.’

Cheeki Rafiki lost its keel as the crew were re­turn­ing the 12m (40ft) yacht from An­tigua to the UK in May 2014 when it got into trou­ble more than 700 miles from Nova Sco­tia.

The four crew mem­bers were skip­per Andrew Bridge, 22, from Farn­ham in Sur­rey, James Male, 22, from Rom­sey, Hamp­shire, Steve Warren, 52, and Paul Goslin, 56, both from Som­er­set.

The US Coast­guard was crit­i­cised for call­ing off its search after two days, but after protests from fam­ily and friends and in­ter­ven­tion by the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment, the search was restarted and the yacht found – but without any sign of the four men.

Prose­cu­tion case

Mr Lick­ley told the jury that Innes and his com­pany had been in charge of Cheeki Rafiki, named after a char­ac­ter in The Lion King, for three years. He said the prose­cu­tion case was that the yacht, which had grounded on three oc­ca­sions in the past three years, had an un­de­tected fault. He claimed bolts hold­ing the three-tonne keel to the hull failed, caus­ing it to fall off in bad weather dur­ing the voy­age.

Mr Lick­ley also claimed dur­ing the trial that the yacht was not ap­pro­pri­ately coded – li­censed – for the voy­age, and that Innes had cho­sen an ‘un­safe’ north­ern route. Innes told the court any fault with the keel had lain hid­den and would not nec­es­sar­ily have

been found by an in­spec­tor, and that he be­lieved the yacht had not re­quired the cod­ing be­cause he did not con­sider the jour­ney to be a com­mer­cial voy­age.

He also de­nied he had cut costs or tried to save time by send­ing the yacht back to the UK via the north­ern route.

Speak­ing out­side court on be­half of the fam­i­lies, Kay Coombes, sis­ter of Steve Warren, said: ‘This has been a long three years and a long trial. We’re grate­ful for all the sup­port that we have re­ceived. Based on the ev­i­dence we’ve heard, we are in agree­ment with the guilty ver­dict on the Sec­tion 100 charges. We’re sure you’ll ap­pre­ci­ate that we can’t com­ment fur­ther be­cause of the re­trial.

‘We would like to thank the MCA, the CPS and all those within the court struc­ture who’ve made this process more bear­able.’

Cres­sida Goslin, widow of Paul Goslin, said of the trial: ‘It has brought us much closer to­gether: we are like a fam­ily.’

storm­force Coach­ing

In a state­ment on the www.storm­force.biz web­site, di­rec­tor Dou­glas Innes an­nounced that Storm­force Coach­ing had ceased trad­ing. He said: ‘The RYA un­der­stand­ably sus­pended our recog­ni­tion the same day. Without ac­cred­i­ta­tions we are un­able to trade, and it is with great sad­ness that I have made the de­ci­sion for the com­pany to cease trad­ing. We will not be tak­ing any book­ings, and we are cur­rently un­able to de­liver prod­ucts al­ready booked.

‘We are work­ing with other in­dus­try mem­bers to try and re­lo­cate as many book­ings as pos­si­ble, and are grate­ful for the good­will be­ing ex­tended by some other sea schools who are res­cu­ing some of our for­mer clients. I re­alise there will be many clients con­cerned about cour­ses or events they have booked: we will try to con­tact cus­tomers as and when we can, but for the mo­ment I apol­o­gise for the sit­u­a­tion. The phones are no longer manned, so calls will, I am afraid, go unan­swered. I am speak­ing with le­gal ad­vi­sors, and will up­date this web­page in due course.

‘I would like to thank all those who have worked, trained and raced with Storm­force Coach­ing over the last 16 years. Over 20,000 sailors and power boaters have joined us on train­ing cour­ses, and our race crews have achieved podium re­sults in nu­mer­ous in­ter­na­tional re­gat­tas. This is in part a great tes­ta­ment to many of the staff that have worked with us. I would par­tic­u­larly like to thank those who have sup­ported us and put their trust in us through the last three years. I am truly sorry this is how it has ended.’

Cheeki Rafiki lost its keel as the crew were re­turn­ing from An­tigua to the UK in May 2014

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.