Page last updated at 13:08 GMT, Monday, 1 February 2010

Cornwall ferry skipper jailed for safety breaches

George Pill
George Pill was told the offences were not excusable

A Cornish ferry skipper has been jailed for six months after pleading guilty to breaching safety regulations.

George Pill, who appeared at Truro Crown Court, admitted going to sea without a serviced life raft and not having a device to release the raft.

The charges relate to Pill's now out-of-service 50-passenger vessel, the Haven Rose, which operated in Falmouth during the summer tourist seasons.

Pill, 61, of Beacon Road, Falmouth, was also ordered to pay £8,500 costs.

Safety inspection

The court heard that Pill, who had spent more than 50 years working as a boatman in Falmouth, bought the ferry for £10,000 in 2006.

Haven Rose
The life raft had not been tested according to regulations

The raft was due to be serviced in December 2007, but Pill decided to test it on dry land himself.

The breach of health and safety regulations was noticed when a marine surveyor carried out a safety inspection on board the vessel the following August.

The inspection found the hydrostatic release unit (HRU), which releases the raft when needed, was also out of date.

Defence counsel Andrew Maitland told the court that the Haven Rose was being operated by two of Pill's sons and he had not been on board for two years because of his health.

The breaches occurred at a time when he was separated from his wife and going through a difficult divorce.

Judge Christopher Elwen told Pill that he had deliberately breached the regulations.

"The idea that this was a mere oversight is laughable - you have been a boatman for 50 years running similar boats in the area," he said.

"You are well aware, as are other boatmen, that passenger safety is of paramount importance.

"These charges relate to the proper servicing of life saving equipment and cutting corners in this way is not excusable, you were saving a trifle, only £500.

"The very firm message needs to go out to owners and operators of vessels in the estuaries and around the coasts of Cornwall that this sort of behaviour will not be tolerated."

Pill said, "I'll be all right", to family in the public gallery as he was taken down to the court cells.

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