15-month suspended prison sentence for Stormforce Coaching boss
Douglass Innes has been given a 15-month prison sentence suspended for two years for failing to safely operate the Cheeki Rafiki.
Mr Innes’ company, Stormforce Coaching Ltd, has been fined £50,000 for failing to operate the yacht in a safe manner contrary to section 100 of the Merchant Shipping Act.
The four crew - skipper Andrew Bridge, 22, James Male, 22, Steve Warren, 52 and Paul Goslin, 56, died after the 40ft yacht lost its keel and capsized in the Atlantic in May 2014 as the men were delivering the yacht from Antigua to the UK.
Their bodies have never been found.
The judge at Winchester Crown Court - Mr Justice Nigel Teare – said ‘cost-cutting’ had been a factor and called on the MCA to tighten the rules regarding the inspection of yachts.
“This was a small yacht about to cross the Atlantic alone, having not been independently examined for over three years. Those circumstances give rise to a risk of death,” he said.
The court had previously heard the Cheeki Rafiki had run aground three times in as many years prior to its fatal final journey, causing damage to the keel.
Instead of reporting this and ensuring regular inspections were properly completed, Innes neglected the boat and ‘cut corners to save costs’.
The court was also told that an email sent to Mr Innes from the boat stating the boat was taking on water was not acted on straight away. Instead Mr Innes carried on drinking at a pub and only later called the Coastguard.
Karim Khalil QC, defending, read a letter written by Mr Innes saying: “To the families, I am truly sorry for the tragedy that occurred on 16 May 2014 resulting in the loss of your dear ones. Nothing I can say will bring back your loved ones but I think of them every day.”
He was acquitted at a retrial of the manslaughter of the four men.
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