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2004 Morecambe Bay cockling disaster
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The Morecambe Bay cockling disaster occurred on the evening of the 5 February 2004 in Lancashire, England with at least 21 cockle pickers drowned by incoming tides in Morecambe Bay.
A work gang of Chinese workers were collecting cockles on Warton Bank, near Hest Bank, when a number were cut off by the incoming tide in the bay at around 9:30 in the evening. Although the emergency services were alerted by a mobile phone call made by one of the workers, only one of the workers was rescued from the waters. A total of 21 bodies, of men and women between the ages of 18 and 45, were recovered from the bay after the incident. A further two cocklers are believed to have been with those drowned, but their bodies were never found. Fourteen other members of the group are reported to have made it safely to the shore, making it 15 survivors in total. The workers were all illegal immigrants, mainly from the Fujian province of China, and have been described as being untrained and inexperienced.
The disaster led to the Gangmaster Licensing Act 2004 being adopted as a bill by the government and passed.
From 2005 to 2006, four men and one women were tried at Preston Crown Court, accused of manslaughter or helping the cocklers break immigration law. On March 24, 2006, Lin Liang Ren was convicted of 21 counts of manslaughter. Lin was described in court as being "callous" and motivated by money. Lin claimed that ultimate responsibility lay with the clients, with frequent price cutting by middlemen to blame for the harsh regime. On 28 March 2006, he was sentenced to 14 years' imprisonment, with a recommendation that he be deported to China at the end of his sentence.
His girlfriend Zhao Xiao Qing and cousin Lin Mu Yong were found guilty of the immigration offences. The first two were also found guilty of three charges of perverting the course of justice, by trying to persuade survivors to name some of the dead as the gangmasters. David Anthony Eden Snr and David Anthony Eden Jnr, from Prenton in Merseyside, who bought cockles from the work gang, were cleared of helping the workers break immigration law. Sentencing took place on March 28, 2006. Lin Liang Ren was sentenced to 14 years in prison, Zhao Xiao Qing was sentenced to two years and nine months, and Lin Mu Yong was sentenced to four years and nine months.
 External links
BBC report, February 2004
BBC report on inquest
BBC report on the distress call
BBC report on trial, January 2006
BBC report, Lin Liang Ren found guilty
BBC report, Cockler gangmaster gets 14 years
Cockler survivor hates gangmaster
Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2004_Morecambe_Bay_cockling_disaster"
Categories: History of Lancashire | Disasters in England | 2004 in England
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