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"No justice for Daylin Brown" as case against Keith Curtis is dropped

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: November 22, 2012

GRIEVING: Graham Brown with his son Daylin not long before he died in his employer’s Land Rover.

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A PROSECUTION sparked by the death of 16-year-old driver Daylin Brown has been abandoned, angering his family.

The Crown Prosecution Service said a mistake had been made when drafting the summons.

Daylin’s father Graham Brown said this week: “We feel totally cheated by the justice system. It is a complete joke.”

The Crown Prosecution Service decision to drop the case came more than two and half years after Daylin died.

The former Great Torrington School student suffered fatal head injuries in February 2010 while driving a Land Rover for his employer K&J Contractors.

The vehicle overturned on a minor road near Torrington.

After Daylin’s death K&J Contractors were initially charged with corporate manslaughter.

These charges were dropped and the CPS filed new charges against company boss Keith Curtis.

These alleged the vehicle Daylin was driving had defects – a defective steering unit and a corroded main brake hydraulic pipe – that made it dangerous.

Now, after countless court hearings over two years, the CPS has discontinued the case.

It said this week: “A police error in drafting the summons meant that the company secretary, rather than K&J Plant Ltd, was named as the defendant. This was noticed too late to amend the summons. We therefore continued the case solely against Mr Curtis.

“On the morning of the trial on September 25 2012, Mr Curtis had different legal representation due to availability issues.

“He said he wished to raise new issues in the case. These issues had not been raised at any previous hearing.

“The defence submitted that Mr Curtis could not be liable as a user in the double capacity of owner of the vehicle and employer of the driver under a contract of service.

“The employer of Daylin Brown was KJPCL, not Mr Curtis personally. KJPCL is a separate legal entity to Mr Curtis, and so it, rather than he, was the employer.

“Having researched this matter extensively, the CPS felt that Mr Curtis could not be proved to be ‘using’ the vehicle in this case. We therefore had no option but to discontinue the case against Mr Curtis.”

Devastated Graham Brown says the family has lost everything and has no fight left to continue the battle for justice.

He said: “We have got to the stage where it seems like no one cares Daylin died. I have been left with a very bad taste in my mouth.

“I don’t blame the police at all. I just feel totally let down by the CPS.

“As a family we couldn’t believe how long it had all been adjourned.

“People say to deal with grief you need to have closure. But we haven’t been able to have that yet. We just wanted justice. It wasn’t about someone going to prison or money.

“It would have been nice to have an outcome for Daylin. If he saw me now he would say ‘Dad, carry on with your life’.”

The CPS said: “We appreciate this decision was taken at a late stage but we have a duty to keep all our cases under continuous review and in this case a discontinuance, however late in the day, was unavoidable.

“Sergeant Rob Kelland, from Devon and Cornwall constabulary’s serious collision investigation unit, and the prosecuting lawyer met with Daylin ’s father to explain this decision.”

Daylin had begun working for the plant hire company while on a day release course at school. He went on to take up a full time job with them when he left school.

After his death hundreds paid tribute to the popular teenager.

More than 500 people paid their respects at a funeral service at St Michael’s Church in Torrington.

Keith Curtis spoke at the funeral and provided all the vehicles for the funeral procession through Torrington.

An inquest heard the vehicle he was driving had been adapted to be an agricultural vehicle, meaning it could be legally driven by a 16-year-old who had passed a tractor test.

Exeter and Greater Devon Coroner Dr Elizabeth Earland recorded a verdict of accidental death contributed to by neglect.

Boss says CPS ‘never really had a case’

PLANT hire boss Keith Curtis, 54, said: “We never thought we had done anything wrong. It has been a very difficult situation and I don’t know if this is the right way for it to end.

“The CPS never really had a case and so I think they just tried to bring about these charges because otherwise they wouldn’t have anything.

“It has been an awful lot of time and money and nothing for it at the end.

“I understand why they had to investigate. A young lad lost his life and what caused it had to be investigated.

“But the problems with the vehicle that were found, like the rusty brake, had nothing to do with Daylin’s death. It was working fine earlier in the day.

“If they thought it had been the cause of Daylin’s death they would have continued with the manslaughter charge.

“It has been very frustrating for us, very sad and very hard — you can’t imagine what it is like really. I don’t think the second charges should have ever been brought.

“I am sure everyone involved will take years to come to terms with what has happened

“My heart goes out to the family, at the end of the day they are the ones that matter and, as people I have known all my life I hope we can move on.”

Mr Curtis confirmed that his legal costs would be paid out of central public funds now the case has been discontinued but was unable to say how much they would be.

He said: “Without a doubt it is thousands of pounds but I don’t know how much exactly.

“But that makes no difference to me it has never been about the money. Let’s hope the boy can now rest.”

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