Company fined £100k after unsafe boat killed two

Robert Morley and Adam Harper
Robert Morley (left) and Adam Harper (right) died after their fishing boat capsized in November 2020 [BBC]

A Devon-based fishing company has been ordered by a court to pay more than £100,000 after an unsafe boat capsized and caused the death of two people.

Laura D Fishing Ltd, a Torquay company operating fishing vessels from Brixham, pleaded guilty to failing to take all reasonable steps to make sure the boat was modified in a safe manner.

West Hampshire Magistrates' Court heard the changes had not been approved by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) but the boat had still carried on working.

On 21 November 2020, Robert Morley, Adam Harper and David Bickerstaff were onboard the Joanna C, five miles south of Shoreham, when the vessel’s gear snagged on the seabed and its lack of stability caused it to sink.

Out of the three crew members, only Mr Bickerstaff survived.

The court said Laura D Fishing Ltd was fined £36,000 and ordered to pay £69,284 in costs and a £190 surcharge.

The MCA said it wanted to remind owners that their vessels must meet the required safety standards to avoid incidents like this from happening.

Mark Cam, senior investigator with the MCA, said: “This is a tragic reminder that modifications to vessels should be planned and their effects on the vessel’s stability properly investigated using appropriate professionals.

“Companies are responsible for providing a safe place of work for their employees, wherever that may be.

"The court has found that Laura D Fishing Ltd did not take all reasonable steps to operate the Joanna C in a safe manner and this led to the deaths of Adam and Robert.”

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