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

PUBLISHED: 11:29 15 January 2019 | UPDATED: 11:29 15 January 2019

Exeter Crown Court. Picture: Archant

Exeter Crown Court. Picture: Archant

Archant

A young farm worker was killed after the brakes on a trailer failed and it fell down a slope, a court has heard.

Kevin Dorman’s death was ‘totally unnecessary’ and caused by ‘criminal negligence’ in the ‘dreadfully poor standard’ of maintenance of the brakes on the trailer, Exeter Crown Court was told.

One of Britain’s leading farming companies and its farm manager have been put on trial, accused of corporate gross negligence manslaughter.

Keen amateur footballer Mr Dorman, age 25, was making silage at Houghton Farm, Newton Poppleford, on May 19, 2014, when he died. He was using one of four tractors and trailers in use at the time.

Exeter Crown Court was told that the brakes on the John Western Suffolk trailer which he was towing failed completely, leading to him losing control of both vehicles, leaving them to career 16 feet down into a sunken lane.

The trailer, which contained grass cuttings and weighed a total of ten tons, landed on top of the cab of the tractor. Mr Dorman died of head injuries at the scene.

Clinton Devon Farms Partnership, (CDFP) of Hawkerland Road, Colaton Raleigh, and George Perrott, aged 51, of Colebrook, Crediton, are both accused of manslaughter and failing to ensure the safety of an employee.

Mr Simon Laws, QC, prosecuting, said Mr Dorman’s death was ‘completely unnecessary’ and was caused by the poor maintenance of the trailer and its brakes.

He added: “The prosecution case is Perrott was the man responsible for the maintenance of the brakes. He performed that task in a way that can only be described as criminally negligent.

“He was allowed to do his job in that grossly negligent way because his employers at CDFP had no proper system in place to monitor or supervise his work to ensure the trailer brakes were properly maintained.

“As a result, a man died a death that was completely unnecessary. Trailers pose a very well-known risk to farm workers and the maintenance task was a simple one.

“Perrott failed to carry it out properly and senior management at CDFP appeared to have no proper grip at all on what was happening on their farm with regard to their trailers.

“Perrott says the last time he worked on the trailer was some days before. Whenever the work was done, it had been done to a dreadfully poor standard. It was certainly done by Perrott.

“The brakes were not working at all. They did not operate in any degree. They might as well not have been there at all.”

Mr Laws said there had been a rain storm on the morning of the accident and the slope was slippery. Mr Dorman had already made one trip up and down the field without a problem but crashed on the second journey.

Another farm worker who was on a different tractor witnessed the accident and rescuers arrived to find Mr Dorman trapped in the wreckage. The vehicle recovery team noticed immediately that the trailer brakes were not working.

The trial continues and is due to last up to five weeks.

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