Page last updated at 11:53 GMT, Saturday, 26 April 2008 12:53 UK

Amphibious car maker faces jail

The boss of a firm which supplied an amphibious vehicle for use in the Lake District, is facing jail after a judge described it as a "floating coffin."

Windermere tour operator Adrian Cowdroy paid 34,000 to Sussex-based Amphibious Cars Ltd for a vehicle to take families on tours of the lake.

But a Carlisle Crown Court jury convicted managing director Tim Dutton-Woolley of making false claims.

Judge Paul Batty QC said the vehicle was not fit for purpose.

During the eight-day trial, brought by Cumbria Trading Standards, the jury travelled to Windermere to watch the vehicle on the lake.

Flooding risk

The court heard the vehicle was ordered in 2004 and delivered in December the following year.

But lake wardens refused to issue a licence to allow the vessel to take fare-paying passengers on Windermere.

Peter Hopley, a chartered engineer specialising in mechanical design and marine equipment, told the court that there was a high risk of down flooding and sinking and that he had "real concerns" about the stability of the vehicle.

Judge Batty said: "This vessel was an absolute disgrace.

"Everyone who saw it, either at close quarters or performing, would probably agree that it was nothing short of a floating coffin."

Phil Ashcroft, Head of Cumbria Trading Standards, said: "There can be no shortcuts where the safety of the public is concerned, especially given that this vehicle's primary purpose was to take fare-paying passengers on Lake Windermere."

Dutton-Woolley was bailed to his home address in Worthing until sentencing on 28 May.

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