Ipswich: Haulier elects not to give evidence in docks manslaughter trial
A HAULIER accused of manslaughter after his lorry loader tipped over at Ipswich Docks and a man was crushed to death has chosen not to give evidence during his trial.
The prosecution in the trial of 48-year-old Paul Napier at Ipswich Crown Court closed its case yesterday and Napier’s counsel Nigel Lithman QC told the court his client would not be giving evidence.
Mr Lithman called accident investigator Philip Mottram as a witness for the defence.
Mr Mottram told the court that, although safety equipment on Napier’s lorry loader, including emergency stop buttons and a device which stopped a crane on the vehicle if it was overloaded, was faulty he did not think it necessary for the vehicle to have been taken off the road until repairs were done.
He said, although two emergency stop buttons on the crane did not work as they should have done, the crane could be stopped using a remote control emergency stop button.
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However, questioned by prosecution counsel William Carter, he accepted that it “was possible” that if an emergency situation concerned the person operating the remote control, anyone trying to use the faulty emergency stop buttons on the crane might not be able to stop it moving and that failure could result in someone dying.
Mr Mottram said he would have expected a fault with a device that stopped the crane operating if it was overloaded to have been picked up during an annual inspection of the vehicle. He said it should have been noticed during an inspection carried out a few weeks before the lorry tipped over at Ipswich docks.
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He would have expected the problems with the emergency stop buttons on the crane also to have been detected during the inspection in November 2011 which was carried out by a specialist lift engineer who had an industrial unit next door to Napier in Clacton.
Mr Mottram accepted that manual extensions on the stabilising legs on the lorry loader were stiff, but insisted they could still be pulled out.
Asked by Mr Carter: “Don’t you agree that if something is difficult to use it is much less likely to be used?” Mr Mottram replied “No”.
Napier, of Inglenook, Clacton, has denied the manslaughter of 52- year-old Neville Wightman, who worked for Red 7 Marine, shortly before Christmas in 2011. Mr Wightman, 52, of Penzance Road, Kesgrave, was crushed to death under a pontoon which slid off Napier’s lorry loader when it tipped over at Ipswich Docks. Mr Wightman’s colleague, Steven Burden, suffered serious injuries to his hip and pelvis.
In a prepared statement to police after the tragedy, Napier said that on the day in question he had been distracted on his arrival at Ipswich docks by chatting to Mr Wightman and Mr Burden and had not lowered the stabilising legs on his vehicle before starting to lift off a pontoon.
The trial continues.