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

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
From Mean Girls to Mamet: Lindsay Lohan
theatre
Sport
Nathaniel Clyne (No 2) drives home his side's second goal past Arsenal’s David Ospina at the Emirates
footballArsenal 1 Southampton 2: Arsène Wenger pays the price for picking reserve side in Capital One Cup
News
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
peopleFormer boxer 'watched over' crash victim until ambulance arrived
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
i100
Travel
travelGallery And yes, it is indoors
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
The Tiger Who Came To Tea
booksJudith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
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

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

My George!

Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world