Innes found not guilty of manslaughter

The jury in the trial of yachting boss Douglas Innes have found him not guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence.

Douglas Innes, 43, of Southampton, Hampshire, briefly closed his eyes and mouthed the words “thank you” as the jury, sitting at Winchester Crown Court, announced the not guilty verdicts.

The jury had been deliberating at the retrial for 23 hours and 25 minutes.

The Beneteau 40.7 named Cheeki Rafiki lost its keel as the crew were returning the yacht from Antigua Sailing Week to Southampton in May 2014 when it got into trouble 1,000 miles from the United States.

Lost at sea were all four crew members – skipper Andrew Bridge, 22, from Farnham in Surrey; James Male, 22, from Southampton; Steve Warren, 52, and Paul Goslin, 56, both from Somerset.

It was 700 miles off Nova Scotia and on its way back to Southampton from Antigua when the incident happened.

The US Coastguard was criticised for calling off its search after two days but after protests from family and friends and intervention by the British government, the search was re-started and the boat found but without any sign of the four men.

Innes, and his company Stormforce Coaching Limited, is to be sentenced on May 11 after being convicted at the first trial of failing to operate the yacht in a safe manner contrary to section 100 Merchant Shipping Act.

Judge Douglas Field said “all options must remain open” with regard to sentencing.

Innes said no fault with the keel or hull had been found and the yacht was scrubbed thoroughly prior to its final journey.

No problems with the keel or hull were spotted and he had not been informed by the yacht’s owners of damage caused during two groundings on two occasions, he added.


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