Negligence that ended in deaths

16th December 1994 at 00:00
Anthony Dore investigates the implications for schools of the Lyme Bay canoe tragedy court verdict, the first conviction for corporate manslaughter in the UK, which has provoked widespread calls for tighter regulation.

In sentencing Peter Kite to three years in prison for manslaughter, Mr Justice Ognall told him: "You have been convicted of manslaughter by criminal negligence. It is a true measure of your culpability that four young lives were needlessly lost in dreadful circumstances because they were undertaking an exercise that common sense alone cried out should be clearly and expressly prohibited.

"You told the jury you felt no sense of personal responsibility for what happened. Whether by rules and procedures, adequate and properly qualified staff or close personal monitoring of the centre matters not: you must have known what was required of you and the company.

"I regret to say that there is force in the suggestion made in the trial that you were more interested in sales than in safety. Parents and teachers trusted you, Mr Kite, and you betrayed that trust."

Richard Lissack QC, in his closing speech defending centre manager Joseph Stoddart, said: "Mr Kite completely washed his hands of the affair. To blame so completely a man such as Mr Stoddart, who he was responsible for overworking and failing to support, is quite disgraceful. Quite what impression this line of defence for Mr Kite has left you with, I don't know. You may think it does him no credit."

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