Journalist, SHP Online

October 7, 2015

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£200k corporate manslaughter fine after worker dies in wall collapse

Hertfordshire building firm, Linley Developments has been sentenced for the corporate manslaughter of a worker who was crushed when a structurally unsound retaining wall collapsed. The company’s managing director and project manager were both also given suspended prison sentences after pleading guilty to breaching CDM Regulations.

It was heard in court how 28-year-old Gareth Jones died instantly on 30 January 2013 when a wall collapsed on him in on Mile House Lane in St Albans.

Two days before the incident, managing director Trevor Hyatt visited the site to find that the foundations for the store room would leave the floor at a higher level than in the adjoining building. Project manager Alfred Baker suggested putting in a step but the client said he would prefer them at the same level.

Two workers told Mr Hyatt that, if they were to dig lower, they might need to underpin the footing of the existing wall. He told them to dig to a lower level regardless.

An investigation found that:

  • Linley Developments, failed to carry out a risk assessment or create a method statement for the excavation;
  • Linley Developments had not installed supports or buttresses to prevent the wall falling forward as the trench deepened; and
  • the wall was inherently unsafe because, during construction a year before, the foundations had not been bonded with it.

Trevor Hyatt, 50, of Letty Green, Hertford was given a six month prison sentence, suspended for two years, after pleading guilty to breaching Regulations 28 and 31 of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations. He was also fined £25,000 with £7,500 in costs. Judge Bright said he had considered disqualifying him as a director but did not believe it “necessary, proportionate or just to do so”.

Alfred Barker, 59, of Gazeley, Suffolk was given a six month prison sentence, suspended for two years, after pleading guilty to breaching Regulations 28 and 31 of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations. He was ordered to pay costs of £5,000.

Mr Hyatt and Mr Baker also faced charges of gross negligence manslaughter, but they were not proceeded with after they pleaded guilty to the two CDM breaches.

Linley Developments was fined £200,000 and ordered to pay costs of £25,000 after pleading guilty to corporate manslaughter on 7 September. It was allowed to pay the fine over six years. The judge also made a publicity order against the company.

Mr Jones’ widow Lianne, 34, said in a statement: “I didn’t just lose my husband, I lost my best friend, my future and a big part of myself.

“Gareth was a devoted father and husband; he was hard working and didn’t deserve to lose his life.”

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