POLA and captain found not guilty in Thames death case

The Port of London Authority and the captain of tug Chiefton have been found not guilty after the vessel’s engineer, Darren Lacey, was killed when the tug capsized and sank near Greenwich Pier on August 12th 2011. The tug had collided with a crane.

Lacey was one of three people to fall off the tug in the accident. Rescuers managed to pull two other men, one of whom was the captain Roy Goatham, from the water. Mr Lacey’s body was found three days later in the river.

Following a seven-week trial at Snaresbrook Crown Court, Goatham, 64, the POLA, Palmers Marine Services and Ravestein VB, a shipyard construction company based in the Netherlands, were all cleared after being charged by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) last year.

The prosecution alleged that by failing to properly plan and manage the tow, both Ravestein and the PLA were in breach of their legal obligations with regard to safety of the workers involved in that operation. All four defendants were unanimously cleared by the jury.

Richard Morris, who defended Palmers Marine Services with Catriona Boyd, said that “the case was extraordinary in many respects not least for the shocking eight-year delay in bringing the prosecution and the loss of vital physical evidence by the crown. The MCA failed to provide any proper explanation for this delay and it is difficult to see how these unsuccessful prosecutions can be considered a good use of public money.”

Tim Green of Henderson Chambers was instructed by Tim Williamson of Foot Anstey on behalf of the PLA and led by Ben Compton QC.

POLA spokesman Martin Garside said that “the sinking of the Chiefton in 2011 was a tragic accident. It caused the death of crew member Darren Lacey – a respected member of the Thames community. This trial examined all aspects of the sequence of events which preceded this tragedy eight years ago. The jury was asked whether the PLA had failed to ensure the safety of its workers and others involved in the towing operation so far as reasonably practicable. The jury found the PLA had not failed in this regard and was therefore not guilty. Immediately following the accident the PLA reviewed all procedures for the conduct of such tows. The PLA also took actions detailed in the independent Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) report of 2012 into the accident. The PLA extends its sympathy again to Darren’s family.”