A father and son who ran a haulage business for 99p Stores were today jailed for the manslaughter of one of their drivers after he fell asleep at the wheel, crashed and died.
Adrian John McMurray, aged 54, and Adrian Paul McMurray, aged 36, who ran AJ Haulage, were convicted of the killing of Stephen Kenyon, who was crushed to death when his 39 tonne Renault lorry crashed into a line of stationary traffic on the southbound carriageway of the M1.
McMurray Snr, of Frobisher Drive, Daventry, (pictured above left) and McMurray Jr, from Ivy Road, Northampton, (above right) had denied manslaughter by gross negligence and failing to discharge an employer’s duty.
However, a jury unanimously convicted the father of both charges.
They found McMurray Jr guilty of manslaughter by a majority of 10 to two and guilty unanimously on the second charge.
Mr Kenyon died in the early hours of Friday, February 12, 2010, between junction 10, at Luton Airport, and junction 9, the exit for Redbourn and Dunstable.
The father-of-four, from Milton Keynes, (pictured) was seen moments before the crash drifting from the slow lane into the middle lane.
As eyewitnesses went past the lorry, Mr Kenyon, who was on his way to Essex with a delivery, could be seen rubbing his eyes.
The jury heard despite braking hard at the last moment, Mr Kenyon crashed into the back of a lorry in front.
His cab was crushed and he received serious head and chest injuries. He was pronounced dead at 2.26am.
Tachographs inside his van showed Mr Kenyon had been at work since 5am the previous morning. He had been on duty for 19 hours and 15 minutes and had been driving for 13 hours and eight minutes, covering 592 miles.
His death was “an accident waiting to happen,” St Albans Crown Court today heard.
Road haulage legislation states truckers can only drive large commercial lorries for a maximum of 10 hours in a 24-hour period and only for two days a week.
Prosecutor Charles Miskin QC, however, said the practice of ignoring legislation was “tolerated if not encouraged” by the McMurrays.
Drivers were “frequently asked to do deliveries that would take them over permitted hours”.
He said: “This is a case about a man who lost his life because the rules were broken,” .
Mr Miskin said the father and son team, who were based at the 99p Stores depot in Daventry, showed a “flagrant disregard for the law” in the pursuit of profit.
He added: “His (Mr Kenyon’s) death was the utterly foreseeable consequence of the way the defendants conducted their business. It was an accident waiting to happen.
“Their negligence had exposed him to the risk of death and that failure had been so reprehensible that it amounted to gross negligence.”
Mr Kenyon’s death also led to an investigation into the company’s financial affairs. Mr Miskin said the father and son’s tax arrangements showed a “flagrant disregard for the law.”
The business turnover was £5.23 million, but a turnover of only £400,000 was declared. No VAT returns were ever made.
McMurray Snr and another defendant, the firm’s bookkeeper, Heather Parkinson, aged 69, of Parkhill, Dromore, County Down, pleaded guilty to cheating the Inland Revenue of £311,976 between April 2005 and September 2009 and evading £424,248 VAT between February 2005 and July 2009.
The father and son admitted cheating the PAYE and National Insurance system of £896,050 between April 2005 and April 2010.
Heather Parkinson admitted cheating the public revenue and National Insurance of £15,081.76p.
McMurray Snr also pleaded guilty to possessing a stun gun that was found in the leather jacket on the back seat of his car.
He had previously been jailed for three years in France in May 2001 after being caught in a lorry importing drugs
McMurray Snr was jailed for a total of seven years, McMurray Jr was jailed for a total of four years, while Parkinson was sentenced to 27 months.
The judge told the McMurrays: “The excessive hours for which he was driving caused him to be so tired he was a danger to himself and other road users.
“Heavy lorries pose a very real threat to other road users and that threat was substantially increased by the way you ran your haulage business.
“The death of Stephen Kenyon was an accident waiting to happen. Adrian John McMurray and Adrian Paul McMurray you ran the business with scant regard to your legal obligations and cutting every corner to maximise your profits.”