Trailer brakes defective in tractor death crash, court hears

A farm manager has been accused of being “criminally negligent” after a trailer with defective brakes caused a tractor driver to lose control and die in a crash.

Kevin Dorman, 25, was towing a heavy trailer down a long slope in a field at a farm in east Devon on 19 May, 2014 when the incident happened, a jury heard on Tuesday (15 January).

Prosecutor Simon Laws QC said: “The trailer’s brakes were not working. At that time he lost control. At the bottom of the slope there was an edge on to the road.

See also: Road regs – how to stay legal when towing a trailer

“The tractor went over the edge of the field and he was crushed by it. He died from head injuries at the scene. The prosecution say it is as simple as this.”

Farmer Kevin Dorman

Kevin Dorman © Nick Irving of Exeter

Mr Laws told Exeter Crown Court the crash was caused because the brakes on the trailer were not working. He told the jury that farm manager George Perrott was responsible for maintaining the brakes.

“He had performed that task in a way that could be described as criminally negligent,” Mr Laws said.

“Perrott was allowed to do his job in that grossly negligent way by his employers Clinton Devon Farms Partnership [CDFP].”

Major landowner

Mr Laws said CDFP, a major landowner in east Devon, did not properly supervise his work and failed to ensure the trailer’s brakes were properly maintained.

He said the death of Mr Dorman at Houghton Farm near Newton Poppleford, Devon, was “completely unnecessary”.

Mr Laws said Mr Perrott failed to carry out the task properly and senior management at CDFP appeared to have “had no proper grip on what was happening on that farm with regard to the trailers”.

He added: “It was simply not fit to be used because of the state of its brakes.”

Mr Dorman crashed on the second run of the day as he carried heavy wet silage on the trailer – which had a combined weight of 10 tonnes, the court was told.

The jury heard the fields were slippery and the tractor and trailer crashed through a fence and into a road. The tractor overturned, landing on its cab and crushing it and Mr Dorman, who was trapped beneath the wreckage.

Experienced driver

George Perrott © Nick Irving of Exeter

Mr Dorman, who played football for Sidmouth Town Football Club, was a competent and experienced tractor driver who had started driving them at the age of five.

See also: Tributes to young farmer killed in tractor crash

Members of the victim’s family wept in the public gallery as the Crown outlined its case.

Mr Dorman’s father James worked on the same farm, and Mr Laws said: “He believed he saw the trailer having work done to it on the day before the crash.

“Problems with the brakes were brought to the attention of Mr Perrott. Perrott says the last time he worked on the trailer was some days before this.”

Mr Perrott, 51, of Colebrooke, Devon, is the farm manager responsible for the day-to-day running of the farm and is responsible for the safety of its equipment. He denies manslaughter and a health and safety charge.

CDFP denies corporate manslaughter of Mr Dorman and a health and safety charge.

The trial is due to last four weeks.