Richard Pease was a hovercraft pilot – is that right – do you pilot a hovercraft? Or drive? Anyway, Mr Pease was in charge of the regular hovercraft service from Southsea to the Isle of Wight. I’ve taken this route and would say that if you have to go to the Isle of Wight, it’s actually quite a nice little journey. If the weather is right.
But if you took the hovercraft on 22nd June 2014, you might disagree with me. Mr Pease was taking 36 passengers to the Isle of Wight when he missed the landing pad.
Other crew members had already had their suspicions aroused. They had “noticed Pease’s reaction time was slow during the crossing and that he failed to carry out a manoeuvre properly when the hovercraft came across a tanker”
After the abortive landing, “he gave no positive response, his head dropped and his body went limp in the chair“. He was later arrested and when he was breathalysed six hours later was still three times over the limit.
It’s not completely clear what the charge was, but we’d have a stab at it being under s78 Railway and Transport Safety Act 2003. This creates two offences relating to a Master or Pilot of a ship –
(2) A person to whom this section applies commits an offence if his ability to carry out his duties is impaired because of drink or drugs.
(3) A person to whom this section applies commits an offence if the proportion of alcohol in his breath, blood or urine exceeds the prescribed limit.
The prescribed limit is the same as for driving a car.
It can be seen that these are pretty similar to the similar offences relating to Road Traffic Act for driving a car whilst being impaired by alcohol or over the prescribed limit. These offences are, however, either way with a maximum sentence of 2 years.
He was sentenced to 8 months imprisonment.
This is clearly a serious offence. We all know the consequences of drink driving, and this could have been even worse.
It sounds like Mr Pease had previous alcohol issues, and he is presumably of ‘good character’. Whilst we’re not sure whether the same rules apply to Maritime Agencies as to the DVLA, but it is clear that he will not be working in his old profession anytime soon.
It is a difficult case. Whilst the need for a custodial sentence to ‘send a message’ can be seen, it is a personal tragedy and a shorter custodial sentence, or one that was suspended, would send the same message equally well. Against that, given the potentially catastrophic consequences, it is unlikely that an appeal will go anywhere.