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Businessman Keith Spicer who sold Royal Navy cheap runway lights is spared jail

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: May 29, 2014

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A businessman who "compromised" one of Britain's busiest airbases by selling substandard runway lights to the Royal Navy has been spared jail

Keith Spicer won a £250,000 contract to fit precision approach path indicators at RNAS Culdrose, where search and rescue missions across the South West are launched daily.

But company boss Spicer, 39, opted to fit cheaper, inferior equipment that soon began cracking and failing with "potentially disastrous consequences", Truro Crown Court heard.

Jason Beal, prosecuting, said Spicer's company, International Airport Visual and Navigational Aids Limited, was obliged to buy the runway lighting from a specialist firm under the terms of the 2012 tender.

But the court heard he substituted the £87,000 devices for cheaper kit sourced from a different company before billing the MoD for the full amount.

Within six months the alternative lights began failing, leaving the base in Helston, Cornwall, without a fully functioning runway for a further three months before they could be replaced.

After completing the refit in October 2012, IAVNA sent the MoD an invoice stating the lights came from Australian-based company Research Engineers.

But Mr Beal said that by February 2013 it became apparent there was a problem with the quality of the equipment.

He told the court: "It was a consequence of that deterioration that the operational capacity of the air station was restricted.

"There could have been some potentially disastrous consequences as a result of the supply of inferior quality lights."

The court heard Spicer paid for the correct lights and had them fitted but was charged with fraud.

He later admitted to police he had purchased them from a Surrey-based company in the hope of making more profit, describing the billing error as an "oversight".

Spicer, of Chelmsford, Essex, pleaded guilty to the offence, which his lawyer Matthew Gowan claimed was an "isolated incident".

Judge Christopher Harvey Clark, QC, sentenced him to eight months in prison, suspended for two years, and ordered him to carry out 160 hours of unpaid work and pay £1,000 costs.

He said: "Not only did that have an impact for the MoD but it meant that the air-sea rescue service operating out of Culdrose was to some extent compromised.

"In bad weather, precision approach path indicators provide crucial assistance for aircraft wishing to land.

"You will suffer a loss of reputation and that will affect not only you personally but your company so it may be difficult for you to obtain contracts in the foreseeable future.

"That, in effect, is a consequence of your own misdeed."

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  • StanStill  |  May 30 2014, 7:45AM

    A complete exaggeration story. PAPI's are not necessary, many airfields do not have them, and pilots are quite capable of landing without them. They are just an aid to landing, not a full requirement. The last aircraft that needs PAPI's are helicopters. I doubt if helicopter pilots ever look at them.