A LYING boatman whose failings led to the death of a diver in the Firth of Forth has been jailed after a sheriff said he had "effectively no safety measures" on board the vessel.

Guthrie Melville, 60, was sentenced to nine months' imprisonment over the tragedy, in which father-of-two James Irvine, 42, died after getting into difficulties in Largo Bay, Fife, on March 24, 2011.

He faced a maximum of two years in prison under the breach of of health and safety regulations.

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Mr Irvine's wife Hazel, also 42, immediately called for sentencing in such cases to be made comparable with culpable homicide.

She said: "I am disgusted with the sentence. He took my husband's life and he should have gone down for years. He should have been treated like it was culpable homicide, because that was what it was."

Stirling Sheriff Court heard that Mr Irvine, a desperate-for-work unemployed kitchen fitter whose only dive training had been a two-week holiday course in Turkey, had been recruited by Melville, owner of the 26-foot Solstice, to fish for razor clams.

The shellfish, prized in the Far East, could be sold on at high prices, and a day's catch could fetch Melville over £2,000.

The Solstice, based at Methil Docks in Fife, is thought to have been using an unapproved technique to make the razorfish rise to the surface of the sandy bottom - by trailing unprotected copper rods connected to an electric welder.

The set-up posed a risk of serious injury - only a few milliamps could stop a diver's heart.

The court was told that there was no way of knowing if this was what had happened to Mr Irvine, from Glenrothes.

After a five-day trial last month, Melville was found guilty of a string of breaches of Diving At Work regulations and health and safety legislation.

Melville, of Kirkburn Drive, Cardenden, Fife, was also found guilty of putting five other divers at risk through similar failings over a six year period between April 2005 and the date of the tragedy.

He had denied the offences and claimed that he had been taking Mr Irvine out for "a pleasure dive".

Sheriff William Gilchrist told him: "You completely ignored the requirements of health and safety. The consequences were extremely, extremely serious.

"There has been no acceptance of responsibility on your part. A custodial sentence is inevitable."