Judge tells Alexander Baird that he had a "callous regard for the law" as he sentences him to prison for nine months.

April 21

At a hearing on 21 April at Mold Crown Court, Alexander Baird was sent to prison for nine months. He had earlier pleaded guilty to a charge of not operating his ship in a safe manner after a number of deficiencies were found on his fishing boat, St Amant.

Baird was the skipper of the vessel between November 2007 and April 2012. During that period St Amant was inspected on nine occasions and a number of problems found.

These included safety equipment not working or not ready for immediate use, a cluttered deck, failure to brief crew on emergency procedures or holding drills and making sure they had taken legally-required safety courses.

In the early hours of 13 January 2012, a member of the crew, Steven Robertson, was lost overboard. No charges have been brought in connection with that fatality and there is no suggestion that the deficiencies found are linked to his loss.

However, prosecution on behalf of the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) said the death was relevant to the seriousness of the offences because after the loss of a crewman, it would be expected that a skipper would do everything to make sure the vessel was safe for those who worked on it.

The deck was cluttered when inspected in June 2010. It was still cluttered on 14 February 2012, a month after Mr Robertson’s death.

Failing to brief crew on emergency procedures was first highlighted in June 2010; it was still a problem in February, March and April 2012. Similarly, crew weren’t being properly trained nor was safety equipment checked that it would be ready for use in an emergency.

David Fenner, Fishing Vessel Policy Manager said: “This case serves as a reminder to owner, operator and managers of fishing vessels to ensure that their vessels are operated safely.”

Passing sentence, His Honour Judge Rhys Rowlands said: “Baird showed a callous disregard of the law and his duty to the crew.”

Speaking after the case, Captain Andrew Phillips, from the MCA’s enforcement unit said,: “This was the first occasion that the new Health & Safety sentencing guidelines have been used. We expect their use will aid a more consistent approach to sentencing.”

March 4

The co-owner and master of a scallop fishing boat has admitted to safety failings in the death of one of his deckhands four years ago.

Scotsman Alexander Baird, 55, of Kirkcudbright, pleaded guilty to one count of failing to ensure the safe operation of a marine vessel. The charge covered the dates from November 2007 to April 2012 and was raised under the Merchant Shipping Act.

Baird was master of scallop fishing boat St Amant when deckhand Steven Roberson, 25, from Dalbeattie, Scotland, fell from the boat in the middle of the night, on January 2012.

A report by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) was critical of the boat’s operation, and damages were awarded to Mr Robertson’s family last year when a Dumfries Sheriff ruled against co-owners Baird and Nightvalley Ltd.

The MAIB investigation found that Robertson died after falling overboard because the St Amant’s deck walls did not meet the minimum statutory height.

The boat also did not have a toilet, and it is believed Mr Robertson fell overboard and drowned while relieving himself on deck.

Robertson was last seen onboard shortly after midnight on the night he went missing and an alarm was raised at 2:30am.

An extensive air and sea rescue search was mounted by the Royal Air Force, RNLI and other agencies, but Robertson’s body was never found.

The judge in the case, Rhys Rowlands, said he would reserve the case to himself and that all sentencing would remain open. Baird was bailed pending sentencing on April 21.

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