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Kesgrave/Clacton: Haulier jailed and fined £50k for crush death accident at Ipswich docks

Neville Wightman

Neville Wightman

A haulier whose lorry loader tipped over and crushed a man to death at Ipswich Docks has been sentenced to 12 months in prison and fined £50,000.

Paul Napier, 48, was found guilty of the manslaughter of Neville Wightman, of Penzance Road, Kesgrave, last month following a trial at Ipswich Crown Court.

He had admitted failing to ensure the health and safety of Red & Marine employee Mr Whightman, 52, who was crushed to death, and his colleague Steven Burden, who was seriously injured in the incident, but had denied manslaughter.

At a sentencing hearing yesterday, His Honour Judge Devaux said that after considering all the mitigating circumstances, 12 months was the shortest tariff he could impose.

He said: “You are described as a ‘gentle giant’ who has been devastated by the accident and I have no doubt that the memory of that night will stay with you.”

During the trial, the court was told that Napier, of Inglenook, Clacton-on-Sea, had been grossly negligent by not taking the “essential and elementary” step of extending stabilisers before using a crane to unload pontoons on December 16, 2011.

A tearful Napier, who did not give evidence during the trial, addressed the court before the judge passed sentence.

He said: “I would just like to say how sorry I am to Neville’s family for all the pain and grief I have caused them and also how sorry I am to Steve’s family and Steve himself for the injuries he has sustained.

“I can’t bear to think how hard it has been for them because I know how hard it has been for me the past 17 months.

“I will never forget Neville. I classed him as a friend - and a very good friend. This accident will never go away and I feel the pain every day. I will never forget the accident and I will have to live with it for the rest of my life.

“Without my family and friends I would not have got through these past 17 months. Once again, I’m really sorry.”

The court heard from character witnesses called by defence barrister Nigel Lithman QC.

Kevin O’Riordan told the court that the accident had left his friend “devastated” and that he was no longer the same person.

He added: “I don’t think he will ever be the same again and that’s for obvious reasons.”

Judge Devaux declined Mr Lithman’s request to suspend the sentence.

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