South East Wales

Cardiff Bay Yacht Club fined £40,000 over boat crash

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Media captionThe club admitted two charges of breaching the Merchant Shipping Act

A yacht club has been fined £40,000 after two motor boats crashed in Cardiff Bay, leaving a schoolgirl brain damaged.

Cardiff Crown Court heard the boats from Cardiff Bay Yacht Club were carrying 13 girls when they collided in the darkness in 2010.

The girls were thrown into the water and some, including an 11-year-old who had a severe head injury, were hurt.

The club admitted two charges of breaching the Merchant Shipping Act.

The court heard the boats - one carrying more passengers than it should have done - were speeding without navigation lights, radios and without any risk assessment being made.

The yacht club was also ordered to pay £14,400 costs.

Its chief instructor, Nicholas Sawyer, 56, who admitted aiding and abetting the club, was ordered to pay £13,400 costs and undertake 180 hours of community work.

The court was told the drivers were instructors on a residential course in 2010.

They were returning the girls to their lodgings after an ice skating trip when the two boats crashed.

Prosecutor Oliver Willmott said: "This was a journey taken in the dark and taken by a vessel with no navigation lights.

'Wrong-headed decision'

"It was not merely a breach of regulations but it was against all common sense and good seamanship.

"The two drivers were not qualified to drive at night but they were asked to undertake a journey by a man they trusted - their training coach.

"The standards fell short of the relevant standard and those exposed were vulnerable children."

Sawyer's lawyer Christian du Cann told the court that he was one of the world's leading coaches of children.

He said: "He made a wrong-headed decision and jeopardised his future career. He cannot understand why he did it - there was no excuse.

"It was an isolated one-off lapse of judgement for which he apologises."

'Dim view'

The two girl drivers were cleared of offences under the Merchant Shipping Act at an earlier hearing.

Judge Neil Bidder said: "It was fortunate that no-one died. The risk to the girls was obvious and both defendants fell far short of the proper standards."

After the hearing, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said it "takes a very dim view of the actions of Cardiff Bay Yacht Club and Nicholas Sawyer and their attitude to safety".

Robert Cotter, surveyor in charge at the MCA's Cardiff Marine Office, said: "When you entrust your child into someone else's care you expect them to do everything necessary to keep them safe.

"The safety of all on board and other users of Cardiff Bay should be the number one priority and this wasn't the case."

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