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

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Fans line up at the AVNs, straining to capture a photo of their favourite star
life Tim Walker asks how much longer it can flesh out an existence
Life and Style
Every minute of every day, Twitter is awash with anger as we seek to let these organisations know precisely what we think of them
techWhen it comes to vitriol, no one on attracts our ire more than big businesses offering bad service
News
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
News
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
television
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
art
Sport
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
football
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
fashion
News
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
news
Sport
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
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

Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Consultant - London - £65,000 OTE.

£65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...

Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable