Suspended sentence for Yacht master

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The master of a vessel who admitted carrying passengers even though safety equipment had not been serviced has received a suspended jail term.

James Graham Paul Stronge, with an address in Killyleagh, Downpatrick, pleaded guilty to going on a voyage without a survey or passenger certificate and breaching shipping regulations.

The offences were committed between August 24, 2011 and February 17, 2012.

Suspending a nine month jail term for three years, Judge Piers Grant said that while he didn’t have the power to disqualify Stronge from operating a boat, he suggested the Royal Yachting Association “should look very carefully at whether he is an appropriate person to carry a licence”.

Derry Crown Court heard that the 64-year-old took a booking from Conservation Volunteers to go on a journey from Foyle Port.

The person that made the booking had asked whether Stronge’s vessel, the Sarah May III, was insured to carry 30 people. He was told it was, however the vehicle was only licenced to carry 13 passengers.

It was revealed that on January 28, last year, 22 passengers boarded the boat including four children.

There were two eight-man life rafts on the vessel, however one of them was out of service date.

The court heard that there were only 21 life jackets on board and 17 of these had not been serviced for four years.

Stronge was served with a notice of detention for the boat by the Marine Coastguard Agency in February 17, last year.

This specified that the boat should not be used until all the safety equipment was properly serviced.

However, the court heard that 64-year-old took the boat out after the notice was served on him although there were no commercial passengers in it at the time.

It was revealed to the court that Stronge has a previous relevant conviction for having excess passengers in 2011.

Judge Grant said the monetary penalties imposed for this “should have served as a warning to you to make sure the safety equipment was available and appropriate”.

He added: “These safety requirements are designed to mitigate and prevent disasters happening”.

The judge said that “history is littered with disasters that have occurred in unexpected circumstances” and it is “arrogant to assume nothing would happen” without proper equipment.

As well as the suspended jail term, Judge Grant fined Stronge a total of £1500 and warned the 64-year-old this was his “final chance”.