Man jailed for manslaughter of partner who was electrocuted due to his negligence - The Rugby Observer

Man jailed for manslaughter of partner who was electrocuted due to his negligence

Rugby Editorial 21st Dec, 2020   0

A MAN whose drunken ‘reckless disregard’ of the dangers of trying to do electrical work himself led to the death of his partner in their caravan home has been jailed.

James Atkin had denied the manslaughter of his partner Deana Simpson by gross negligence – but was found guilty following a trial at Warwick Crown Court.

Atkin, 43, who lived with Deana in the caravan on his father Trevor’s Willoughby Fields Farm in London Road, Willoughby, has now been jailed for six-and-a-half years.

Trevor Atkin, 72, of Station Road, Lilbourne, near Rugby, was sentenced to 10 months in prison suspended for two years after he pleaded guilty part-way through the trial to two breaches of Health and safety regulations at the farm.

The case followed 40-year-old Deana’s tragic death from electrocution as she prepared food for a barbecue in the static caravan where she lived with James Atkin in August 2017.

James, whose drink problem was so serious that he often drank before starting work to get rid of the shakes, had bought an inverter to convert power from a diesel generator on the farm to DC current to store it in batteries and then to convert it back to AC for use in the caravan.

But rather than employing a skilled electrician, he had decided to do the work himself – and in doing so he had shown a ‘complete disregard’ to essential safety features.

On the day of Deana’s death, another man who worked on the farm joined James and Deana at their home for a drink, and they decided to have a barbecue that evening.

James continued working on the power supply in a nearby shed, with a bottle of beer in his hand, and the other man was in the kitchen as Deana was preparing food when she dropped to the floor.

The man went and told James who returned to the caravan and took a picture of her, thinking she was playing a joke, before getting a shock himself and realising she had been electrocuted.

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

An electrical expert who checked James’s work found the wiring to be in such a dangerous condition that he described it as an accident waiting to happen, said prosecutor Michael Burrows QC.

At the sentencing hearing he submitted: “This is a case of higher culpability because he showed a blatant disregard to the high risk of death. He cut off the earth wire.”

And he pointed out that James, whose previous convictions included one for grievous bodily harm, had committed the offence while under the influence of alcohol.

In relation to Trevor Atkin, Mr Burrows said he had failed to meet his obligations to employees and others at the farm, where there were no health and safety procedures in place.

Deana Simpson.

In a statement read by Mr Burrows, Deana’s mother Karen Simpson said: “To have to live the rest of my life knowing I will never see Deana again is crucifying.” And Deana’s sister Donna described herself as ‘heartbroken and devastated.’

Reading her own statement, Deana’s daughter Chloe Wood said: “The whole foundation of my life had crumbled. I struggle to get by on special occasions, particularly my birthday which is on Christmas Day.”

And her son Bradley Wood said there was ‘so much I would have liked to say to her,’ and he had had to undergo counselling.

Bernard Tetlow QC, for Trevor, said: “He appreciates the tragic events led to a bereavement, and through me he expresses his sorrow and regret for the loss people have suffered.

“Of course Mr Trevor Atkin wishes he had exercised more control and supervision over what happened in the caravan and the surrounding area, but he did not know what James was undertaking.

“Had he known, he would not have approved. Whether he would have been able to stop him is another matter.”

Jamie Hamilton QC, for James, remarked: “To custody today James Atkin will go. The question for the court is the length of that sentence.

“Deana Simpson was a significant person in his life. It is undoubtedly the case that Mr Atkin has to accept responsibility for the fact that Deana Simpson passed away as a result of his conduct. That is not diminished by the fact he had a trial.”

Sentencing the two, Judge Sylvia de Bertodano said: “The farm was off-grid, and there is some evidence it was difficult to get electricians who knew about working off-grid, although there was an electrician who would visit.

“One person who appeared to know little or nothing about electrics was you James Atkin, and yet it was you who was working on the electrical supply to the caravan.

“You did so with very little understanding of what you were doing, and with complete disregard for the two essential safety features, bonding and earthing.

“While it is right you installed RCDs, which are safety devices designed to pick up faults, those RCDs were not operational because the earthing had been cut off. According to the expert the RCDs might as well not have been there.

“This was an accident waiting to happen, and it was that accident which happened on the 26th of August which caused the tragic death of Deana Simpson.

“Deana’s two children read moving statements to the court. Nothing I do today and nothing that either of you can ever do can take away the pain they suffer and will continue to suffer for the rest of their lives.

“James Atkin, you were clearly aware of the dangerous nature of electricity, but you showed a reckless disregard to those dangers… and you were clearly very often drunk when you were working on the electrics.

“I do accept that you are very sorry although expressions of remorse are always more compelling when they are accompanied by a guilty plea.”

Judge de Bertodano described Trevor as ‘an honest, hard-working and respected family man,’ but told him the tragedy ‘would not have happened if you had been exercising a reasonable degree of care.’

“There was a risk of death as a result of those failures, as the death of Deana Simpson shows. In fact, there is no evidence that health and safety procedures were in place at all.”

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