Father and son haulage bosses guilty of manslaughter

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A father and son who ran a Northamptonshire haulage business for 99p stores have been found guilty of the manslaughter of one of their drivers, who fell asleep at the wheel.

Adrian John McMurray, 54, and Adrian Paul McMurray, 36, who ran AJ Haulage, which was based in Daventry, Northants, were convicted of the killing of Stephen Kenyon who was crushed to death when his 39 tonne lorry crashed into a line of stationary traffic on the M1 in the early hours of February 12 2010 near Redbourn and Dunstable.

The jury at St Albans crown court was told the death was “an accident waiting to happen” as the father-of-four from Milton Keynes, who had debts of £10,000, had been working for more than 19 hours and driving for over 13 of those in an attempt earn extra money.

Tacographs are fitted to every large vehicle to record a driver’s activities, but the 35-year-old was using both his and the relief driver’s so that it would appear he was driving less.

This practice was “tolerated if not encouraged” by the McMurrays, the jury was told.

Prosecutor Charles Miskin QC told the jury: “Drivers were frequently asked to do deliveries that would take them over permitted hours. Tired drivers pose a risk to themselves and others. This is a case about a man who lost his life because the rules were broken.”

Mr Miskin said the father and son showed a “flagrant disregard for the law” in the pursuit of profit.

He added: “His death was the utterly foreseeable consequence of the way the defendants conducted their business. It was an accident waiting to happen.

“They failed to take steps to reduce the risk to drivers and to the public. They repeatedly exposed him to risk of death by asking him to work longer hours than he should have. This was a wilful disregard of the Tacograph law.”

Adrian John McMurray of Frobisher Drive, Daventry and Adrian Paul McMurray from Ivy Road, Northampton pleaded not guilty to manslaughter and failing to discharge an employer’s duty.

But after almost 17 hours the jury convicted father and son of both charges.

Reporting of the case, which finished earlier this month, was subject to a contempt of court order because the father and son faced trial for cheating the Inland Revenue and VAT. But today they changed their pleas.

Adrian John McMurray and co-defendant Heather Parkinson, 69, of Parkhill, Dromore, County Down pleaded guilty to cheating the Inland Revenue of £311,976 between 6 April 2005 and 3 September 2009 and evading £424,248 VAT between 1 February 2005 and 31 July 2009.

Adrian John McMurray and Adrian Paul McMurry admitted cheating the PAYE and National Insurance system of £896,050 between 6 April 2005 and 5 April 2010. Heather Parkinson admitted cheating the public revenue and National Insurace of £15,081.76p.

Judge Andrew Bright QC adjourned sentence for reports to be prepared on the defendants. All three are due to be sentenced on at the end of June. They were all released on bail.