Trial update: Farm company ‘caused death’ of Newton Poppleford silage worker killed in trailer crash

Exeter Crown Court. Picture: Archant

Exeter Crown Court. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

A farm worker who was killed in a trailer crash died because a farm company failed to enforce their own safety rules, a court has been told.

Kevin Dorman was crushed to death by the ten ton trailer when its brakes failed as he was loading silage in a sloping field which had been made slippery by a sudden rainstorm.

The weight of the trailer led to it dragging the tractor over a 15 foot hedge onto a sunken lane, where 25-year-old Mr Dorman died from severe head injuries.

The accident in May 2014 happened at Houghton Farm, Newton Poppleford, Devon, which is owned by the Clinton Devon Farms Partnership and managed by George Perrott.

He was responsible for the safety of the trailer on which the brakes are alleged to have failed because they had not properly maintained, Exeter Crown Court heard.

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Perrott, aged 51, of Colebrook, Crediton, denies gross negligence manslaughter and Clinton Devon Farms Partnership, (CDFP) of Hawkerland Road, Colaton Raleigh, denies corporate manslaughter. Both deny failing to ensure the safety of an employee.

Clinton Devon Farms Partnership is a division of Clinton Devon Estates which manages 2,800 acres of organic farmland in the Lower Otter valley.

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Clinton Devon Estates is Devon’s biggest private landowner, with 17,000 acres in East and North Devon and 350 houses. It manages the holdings of Lord Clinton.

Mr Simon Laws, QC, prosecuting, said the brakes on the Richard Western trailer, which Mr Dorman was towing, failed completely and led to him losing control and crashing.

He said it was Mr Perrott’s job to maintain the trailer but checks after the crash showed the brakes had not been tightened correctly and the work had been ‘dreadful’.

Mr Laws said the company did not have the systems in place to ensure regular and efficient work was carried out, and the only manual dated back to 1994 and was ‘hopelessly out of date’.

He said: “There was a simple failure to engage with reality and run the business in a way that did not put workers’ lives at risk through a lack of basic maintenance.

“Nobody either internally or externally had any proper oversight of Mr Perrott’s work so the trailers were neglected to the extent that one did not have any brakes at all.

“Our case is that this breach is so bad, it amounts to a crime. You might think it is a basic and vital step to check if the brakes were working after they had been adjusted.

“That cannot have been done or the problem would have been discovered. To allow a trailer in this condition to be used by an unsuspecting driver is grossly negligent.

“There is no suggestion that Mr intended this outcome but what he did was exceptionally bad and therefore a crime. The case against CDFP is that no system was in place to ensure maintenance was carried out to a reasonable standard.

“The failure by senior management was extremely serious. A man died because no steps were taken to ensure he was driving a safe trailer.

“They had written policies to ensure safety but they were in a filing cabinet somewhere and not applied on the ground. Having systems is one thing and making sure they are implemented is quite another thing. It was simply a paper exercise.”

The trial continues.

Previous stories:

Death of Newton Poppleford farm worker in tractor crash was ‘unnecessary and caused by gross negligence’, court hears

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