A haulage boss and a mechanic have been convicted of manslaughter after a 32-tonne truck with faulty brakes killed four people, including a four-year-old girl.
The driver, Phillip Potter, 20, was cleared of all charges after a jury heard his brakes failed while the 11-year-old vehicle, which was heavily loaded, was on a hill.
Matthew Gordon, 30, and Peter Wood, 55, were each convicted of four counts of manslaughter following a trial at Bristol crown court. They have been remanded in custody ahead of sentencing next month.
Four-year-old Mitzi Steady was crossing Lansdown Lane in Upper Weston, Bath, with her grandmother Margaret Rogers on 9 February 2015 when she was hit by the eight-wheeled Scania HGV, which was loaded with aggregate and driven by Potter, an inexperienced driver. Margaret Rogers and a second woman, Karla Brennan, suffered life-changing injuries. The lorry also hit three parked cars, including a Volvo holding Robert Parker, 59, Philip Allen, 52, and Stephen Vaughan, 34, all of whom died.
Alyson Harris, of the Crown Prosecution Service in the south-west, said: “This terrible tragedy could have been avoided had the defendants performed their jobs competently. The company did not comply with the traffic commissioner’s conditions. The vehicle was not properly maintained and it was driven on a road it should not have been on and at a time when it was not roadworthy.”
She added: “We hope that these verdicts bring some sense of justice to the victims’ families and that all road users take note of the importance of safety and of complying with the rules of the road and of the terrible results that can follow if that is not done.”
The Road Haulage Association is calling for an urgent increase in enforcement staff to ensure that safety standards are both met and maintained.
“Safety behind the wheel is of course important in any occupation that involves a moving vehicle,” said RHA chief executive Richard Burnett. “But for the operator of a heavy goods vehicle, safety of the driver, other road users – including cyclists and pedestrians is absolutely crucial. Such levels of safety can only be achieved through ensuring that the vehicle meets the stringent levels of compliance that are needed to keep their operation within the law.”
This industry plays a key role in the UK economy – 85% of UK goods are moved by road. The majority of road haulage operators ensure that their safety standards are met at all times. It is extremely frustrating that hauliers in the minority, those who have total disregard for safety standards, are not identified more quickly and prevented from operating dangerously.
(Information sourced from RHA press release and an articled published by Alice Ross in The Guardian)