11th May, 2021

Father and son accused of manslaughter of woman electrocuted in caravan

TWO men have gone on trial accused of the manslaughter of a woman who was electrocuted in the caravan she shared with her partner on his father’s farm.

Tragic Deana Simpson’s partner James Atkin, 43, and his father Trevor Atkin, 72, have both pleaded not guilty at Warwick Crown Court to her manslaughter by gross negligence.

Trevor Atkin has also denied two charges of contravening health at safety regulations at his Willoughby Fields Farm in London Road, Willoughby.

Those charges alleged he failed to ensure the safety of employees and people other than employees by failing to properly maintain the electrical supply to the caravan.

Prosecutor Michael Burrows QC told the jury: “This case is about the death of Deana Simpson. She was electrocuted and killed on the 26th of August 2017.

“She was 39 years old, and she lived with James Atkin in a mobile home on a farm owned and run by his parents.

“The prosecution say both James and Trevor Atkin are criminally responsible for her death. We say it was their gross negligence which led to her being electrocuted in the kitchen of her home.

“The prosecution say Trevor Atkin is also guilty of other offences in breach of Health and Safety regulations. He had a duty to maintain the electrical system, and he owed Deana Simpson a duty of care.”

Mr Burrows said Deana began a relationship with James Atkin about five-and-a-half years before her death, but it was a stormy relationship because they were both heavy drinkers.

They lived in a caravan at Trevor Atkin’s Willoughby Fields Farm which had a gas cooker but electrical lighting and appliances including a dishwasher.

The power was generated off-grid on the farm, mainly using a small petrol generator which was not reliable, and James would sometimes ask Deana’s father Errol Williams, who also worked at the farm as a maintenance fitter, to fix it.

There was also a larger generator, a tractor unit which worked on diesel, to power things around the farm.

James, who the prosecution say also worked at the farm, would use that when the small generator had packed up – but Trevor was not happy about that because it cost a lot to run, and using it for the caravan meant it was running all night.

So in 2017 James carried out work intended to improve the supply to the caravan by storing electricity from the large generator in batteries during the day to use at night.

That involved installing an inverter to convert the AC power from the generator to DC current in the batteries and then back to AC for use in the caravan.

“Installing such equipment requires proper knowledge. It is not work for someone who is not qualified or experienced – certainly not work for someone with a drink problem,” said Mr Burrows.

He pointed out that James was someone with a drink problem, usually drinking neat spirits or strong beer every day – and getting the shakes when he has not had a drink.

“He would sometimes be seen having a drink before work to stop the shakes. Nevertheless, he continued working on the installation.”

On the day before Deana’s death, James had turned up for work already drunk, and he left early and continued working on the electrical supply to the caravan with a bottle of beer in his hand.

On Saturday August 26 another man who worked on the farm joined James and Deana at their home for a drink, and they decided to have a barbeque that evening.

At 6.15pm the farm employee was in the kitchen where Deana was starting to prepare the food when she suddenly dropped to the floor, and at first he though she had had too much to drink.

But she was not moving, and he went to tell James who suggested she was drunk and came back to the caravan where he touched the cooker and was ‘knocked back by the shock’ – and they realised Deana had been electrocuted.

James later said he though Deana was playing a joke on him, and he even took a photograph of her on his phone before he touched her and got an electric shock and told Edward to call 999.

Paramedics arrived, but despite their efforts and that of a doctor who arrived in the air ambulance, they were unable to revive her – and her cause of death was found to be electrocution.

And an electrical expert who checked James’s work found the wiring to be in a poor and dangerous condition, and RCD safety devices had been bypassed or removed.

Mr Burrows said that Trevor Atkin’s case was that he did not employ his son at the farm, and that he had nothing to do with the caravan – and that James was carrying out the work on his own behalf.

But Land Registry documents showed that it was Trevor and his wife who had obtained temporary planning permission for the caravan to be sited at the farm.

“You will have to consider whether Trevor Atkin had employees, and whether his son was an employee,” Mr Burrows told the jury. The trial continues.

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