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28 June 2013, 13:21
A father and son who ran a haulage business for 99p Stores were jailed today/Friday for the manslaughter of one of their drivers after he fell asleep at the wheel.
Adrian John McMurray, 54, and Adrian Paul McMurray, 36, 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 southbound carriageway of the M1. It happened in the early hours of Friday February 12 2010 between junction 10, the Luton Airport exit and junction 9, the exit for Redbourn and Dunstable.
The father-of-four from Milton Keynes had been working for more than 19 hours and had been driving for over 13 of them. His death was "an accident waiting to happen," said the prosecutor at St Albans crown court.
Road haulage legislation states that truckers can only drive large commercial lorries for a maximum of 10 hours in a 24 hour period, and then only two days a week. For the rest of the week, the maximum time they can spend behind the wheel of a lorry is nine hours.
Cabs can be fitting with two Tacographs, if there is a relief driver on board, but Mr Kenyon, 35, was using them both when he died and was driving longer hours that legally permitted so he could increase his earnings. At the time he had debts of around £10,000. Friends and family noticed how tired he was and how he would often fall asleep in a chair.
Prosecutor Charles Miskin QC said the practice was "tolerated if not encouraged" by the McMurrays, who ran AJ Haulage. They were based at the 99p stores depot in Daventry, Northants and were working solely for the company, delivering goods to branches up and down the country and collecting waste material.
In the five years to February 2010 AJ Haulage, which had its yard at the depot, had rapidly grown from two drivers to where it had 25 lorries and 40 trailers.
The firm's administration had not kept pace and rarely were there sufficient drivers to do all that was required. "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," said Mr Miskin.
He said the father and son showed a "flagrant disregard for the law" in the pursuit of profit. Mr Misken went on: "His 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 (Mr Kenyon) to the risk of death and that failure had been so reprehensible that it amounted to gross negligence." He said the defendants had failed to carry out any kind of "risk assessment."
Moments before the crash a couple travelling south noticed Mr Kenyon's lorry drifting form the slow lane towards the middle lane two or three times. As they went past the lorry, Mr Kenyon who had left Daventry, and was on his way to Essex with a delivery, could be seen rubbing his eyes.
Ahead traffic was slowing because of congestion and a lorry in front of Mr Kenyon's vehicle had come to a halt at the rear of a line of stationary traffic. The jury heard despite braking hard at the last moment, Mr Kenyon crashed into the back of the lorry in front.
His cab was crushed and he received serious head and chest injuries. He was pronounced dead at the scene at 2.26 that morning.
The Tachographs showed he 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 8 minutes,covering 592 miles.
The father and son were not monitoring the Tacograph charts of their drivers as they should have been and should also have retained the drivers' charts for a year. They were required to employ a "qualified transport manager" which was never done. They falsely claimed the head office for AJ Haulage was in Northern Ireland and did not keep records to show when vehicles had been maintained.
Mr Kenyon's death 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.
"There was a significant loss to the Exchequer over a significant period of time. Both were prepared to cut corners to make a profit which manifested itself in the tax fraud and the death of Stephen Kenyon. From the tax returns it appeared to be a small business operating in Northern Ireland, not the large business operation it was," said the prosecutor.
The father's benefit from the fraud was £1 million and the son £139,000. Their book-keeper Charlotte Heather Parkinson made a benefit of £25,000, said Mr Miskin.
Adrian John McMurray of Frobisher Drive, Daventry and Adrian Paul McMurray from Ivy Road, Northampton pleaded not guilty to manslaughter by gross negligence and failing to discharge an employer's duty. The jury unanimously convicted the father of both charges. They found the son guilty of manslaughter by a majority of 10 to 2 and guilty unanimously on the second charge.
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.
The father and son 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.
Adrian John McMurray also pleaded guilty to possessing a stun gun that was found in the leather jacket that was on the back seat of his car.
The court heard the father had been jailed for 3 years in France in May 2001 after being caught in a lorry importing drugs
Judge Andrew Bright QC jailed the father Adrian John McMurray for a total of 7 years - four years for manslaughter and 3 years for fraud. He sentenced Adrian Paul McMurray to a total of 4 years - 2 and a half years for the manslaughter and 18 months for the fraud.
Heather 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."