Transport workers jailed after death

A FELIXSTOWE haulage director and one of his lorry drivers are today both starting four-year jail sentences after they were convicted of killing a 24-year-old hotel manager whose car broke down on the A12.

A FELIXSTOWE haulage director and one of his lorry drivers are today both starting four-year jail sentences after they were convicted of killing a 24-year-old hotel manager whose car broke down on the A12.

Haulage director Martin Graves, from Eastland Court, Trimley St Mary, was found guilty of manslaughter.

Driver Victor Coates, 57, was convicted of killing Lee Fitt by dangerous driving after he fell asleep at the wheel, ploughing into Mr Fitt's stationery car, following a 20-hour shift.

Today his father David Fitt, emotionally exhausted at the end of the seven-month trial made the following plea.

"There must be a better ways of paying people than a bonus that endangers the public.

"In the end it all just come down to greed. If anyone reading this is tempted to change their tachographs, please don't do it."

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Both men were convicted of a string of offences of falsifying tachographs, at Suffolk-based firm MJ Graves, where driving "off chart" was "endemic".

Judge Philip Clegg warned, "Driving excessive hours was like playing Russian roulette with the public, sooner or later someone will fall asleep with appalling consequences."

Basildon Crown Court heard how Coates, from Maidstone Road in Felixstowe, was returning to the Suffolk port from Watford when the fatal accident occurred just after midnight on December 14th 1999.

Defence barrister Peter Birts told the court that there was no commercial necessity to get back.

He said, "But Coates' bonus was driving him".

On passing sentence Judge Philip Clegg told Coates: "You were on a part of the road that was gun barrel straight and you were driving at 50 mph, but fell asleep at the wheel and went straight into the back of Lee Fitt's car which had its tail lights on and, at some time, its hazard lights.

"The results were catastrophic and Lee Fitt was catapulted into the middle of the road. At the time of the fatal accident you had been up for 21 hours and working for 20 hours. You had been driving off chart since 6pm."

On another occasion, the judge added, Coates had worked 65 hours without a daily rest period.

Coates was further condemned for putting a bogus tachograph into his lorry to make it appear he had been driving "on chart".

Judge Clegg said: "When someone asked you after the accident what had happened you told them, 'Some idiot didn't have his lights on'."

In sentencing 40-year-old Graves, he said: "You were leading by example, driving off chart yourself, and working excessive hours.

"It's hardly a surprise that the evil of off chart became endemic in your firm."

Graves' four tachograph offences, which he had previously denied were given a year sentence to run concurrent.

He was acquitted of count of falsifying his tachograph, which he had denied. He had also denied manslaughter.

Coates received a six month concurrent sentence for three admitted charges of falsifying his tachograph. He was also banned from driving for six years.

He had denied causing death by dangerous driving.

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