Nicholas Barrett was described as having a "callous disregard for his actions" after his RIB hit a moored boat causing serious injuries to his partner and daughter
A RIB owner has been sentenced to nine months in prison, suspended for 12 months, after he hit a moored wooden motor cruiser on Oulton Broad, resulting in life-changing injuries to his partner and serious injuries to his daughter.
Ipswich Crown Court heard that Nicholas Barrett of Oulton Broad, Suffolk, had been drinking at the time of the incident.
He pleaded guilty to operating an unsafe vessel, contrary to section 100 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995.
The court was told that on the night of the incident, Barrett had been travelling at high speed along Oulton Broad. His partner and their two young daughters, aged 10 and 8, were passengers.
The RIB, which didn’t have any lights, hit the moored wooden motor cruiser with such force that a hole was punched into the side of the motor cruiser, propelling the owner out of his bunk.
Barrett’s partner and one of the daughters were thrown into the water. One of the RIB’s tubes was also punctured.
The owner of the moored cruiser immediately came on deck with a torch and saw Barrett’s partner submerged under water.
His quick actions, locating Barratt’s partner, allowed Barratt to pull her from the water into the RIB.
Barrett’s partner suffered multiple fractures to the skull and body and as a result was detained in hospital for several days alongside one of their daughters who had sustained a severe cut to her forehead and leg.
They were rowed ashore by a local resident who had witnessed the collision.
Barrett and his other daughter also sustained injuries.
Suffolk Police, Suffolk Fire & Rescue Service East of England Ambulance Service and Lowestoft and Southwold Coastguard Rescue Teams all attended the scene.
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The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), which brought the prosecution following a joint investigation with the Broads Authority, said it was clear to emergency services that “some of the injuries were extremely serious and required immediate hospital treatment.”
“Mr Barrett, who was breathalysed on scene at 53mgs, was aggressive to emergency staff, questioning the need for their involvement and the need for his family to attend hospital. He continued this behaviour at hospital and was required to leave,” explained the MCA in a media release.
In sentencing on 1 September, Judge Devaux at Ipswich Crown Court commented on the breathalyser reading of Barrett.
He also referred to what he said was the apparent culture of drinking on boats and the consequential risks.
In recognising Barrett’s early plea of guilty, he was sentenced to a total of nine months imprisonment – suspended for 12 months, 15 days rehabilitation activity, 120 hours unpaid work.
He was also ordered to pay costs of £15,000 and £140 victim surcharge.
Following the sentencing, the head of the MCA Enforcement Unit, Jeremy Smart, strongly criticised Barrett’s behaviour.
“From the very onset, Mr Barrett has shown a callous disregard for his actions, refusing to cooperate with our investigations and declining to be interviewed.”
“This case highlights the enormous risks associated with, what can only be described as, reckless behaviour and a total disregard for safety of not only himself, but his partner and children,” continued Smart.
“The dangers of travelling at speed at night over unlit water without lights are obvious. There is no room for complacency, especially when you are responsible for the lives of others, particularly children,” he said.
“The risks were compounded in this case by the fact Barrett had been drinking. This case could very easily have had a tragic outcome. The MCA’s MGN 538 provides sound advice for keeping safe on pleasure vessels and we would urge all owners and skippers to make themselves familiar with its content,” stressed Smart.