Boss is jailed over canoe deaths

The former boss of a Dorset activity centre was jailed for three years yesterday after being found guilty of the manslaughter of four teenagers who died on a canoeing trip last year.

Peter Kite, 45, former managing director of the owners of the St Albans centre in Lyme Regis, was sentenced to three years' imprisonment. The company was found guilty of corporate manslaughter and fined pounds 60,000; it is believed to be the first major conviction for corporate manslaughter in a British court. Sentencing Kite, Mr Justice Ognall said there was a need for more control and supervision to ensure the lessons of the Lyme Bay disaster had been learned. He ordered that details of the tragedy and the bungled rescue operation be passed to ministers for their ''immediate appraisal'', adding: ''The potential for injury and death is too obvious for safety procedures to be left to the inadequate vagaries of self-regulation.''

The judge said Kite was more interested ''in sales than in safety''. He added: ''The parents and the teachers trusted you . . . and you betrayed that trust.''

After deliberating for more than nine hours at the end of a 16-day trial, the jury brought in 10-1 majority verdicts of manslaughter against OLL Ltd, formerly Active Learning and Leisure Ltd, and Kite, of Richmond, London. The jury was unable to reach a verdict on Joseph Stoddart, 53, the centre manager who was responsible for its day-to-day operation. The prosecution said that it would not seek a retrial and he was found not guilty of manslaughter at the direction of the judge.

The four teenagers who died, Claire Langley, Simon Dunne, Rachel Walker, all 16, and Dean Sayer, 17, all pupils at Southway Comprehensive School in Plymouth, were on a five-day holiday at the centre.

The court heard that the centre allowed two inexperienced and unqualified instructors to take a novice party on to the open sea without flares or a two-way radio; when the canoes began to capsize in strong winds, the teenagers were not told to inflate their lifejackets.

Additionally, the rescue operation went wrong when the harbourmaster and the centre took too long to alert the coastguards, who in turn failed to order a prompt air-sea rescue.

In his defence, Mr Stoddart, of West Lulworth, Dorset, said he had intended the canoeists to follow a coast-hugging route that day and not go out on the open sea.

He bore the responsibility for allowing the two instructors, Tony Mann and Karen Gardner, to lead the expedition because he believed in their abilities. Richard Lissack, QC, for Mr Stoddart, told the court that ''It was not a wise decision and that haunted him now. But this did not amount to gross negligence.''

The jury's decision to convict OLL Ltd is a warning to organisations, directors, senior executives and shareholders that they bear the ultimate responsibility for the safety of people passing through their care.

After the case, the parents of the victims called for government action. Referring to the rescue operation, Dennis Walker, the father of Rachel, said: ''I think everybody got it wrong on that day.'' It had been a ''catalogue of disasters''. Sylvia Dunne, mother of Simon, said that if the lifejackets had been inflated they would still be alive.

The tragic trip, page 6

Litany of mistakes, page 18

News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Travel
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
Sport
footballManchester City 1 Roma 1: Result leaves Premier League champions in danger of not progressing
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
News
i100
Life and Style
Magic roundabouts: the gyratory system that has excited enthusiasts in Swindon
motoringJust who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
booksWell it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Commercial Litigation NQ+

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE NQ to MID LEVEL - An e...

MANCHESTER - SENIOR COMMERCIAL LITIGATION -

Highly Attractive Pakage: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - A highly attractive oppor...

Senior Marketing Manager - Central London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Campaigns, Offlin...

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?