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April 23, 2014

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£200,000 and a suspended prison sentence after volunteer falls to his death


A religious charity from Liverpool has been fined £65,000 for breaching health and safety laws following the death of an unemployed volunteer who fell through a roof void whilst undertaking insulation work.

39-year-old Lee Bourn, a member of the church congregation was assisting builder Keith Tyson in laying insulation in the auditorium and fell approximately 25 feet through a suspended ceiling at the Liverpool Lighthouse Church and arts venue in Anfield on 12 February 2010.

Liverpool Crown Court heard that an investigation by Liverpool City Council found that the ceiling was fragile and there was a clear, high risk of falling in this space.

Mr Bourn had been wearing a harness, which had been provided by the charity, but the lanyard on it was not long enough to do the work safely and was not attached to a suitable anchor point.

Instead, Keith Tyson bought a lightweight nylon rope from B&Q and tied it to the harnesses to extend it. The rope was not able to support a person. The rope offered no protection and Mr Bourn was able to fall to his death through the ceiling void.

The court was told the charity had received a grant for £1,988 to insulate the roof space. Keith Tyson, a churchgoer at the Lighthouse, was paid £588 to do the job on a labour only basis, despite the fact that he had never quoted to do the job and no checks had been made to see if he was competent to the work. Mr Tyson had never used a harness before. Another builder had quoted £1,980 to do the work and had warned the charity that the ceiling space was hazardous with a “danger of death”.

Love and Joy Ministries Limited, the operator of the venue, failed to carry out a suitable risk assessment and failed to review the method of work after being warned that it was dangerous to work in the ceiling void and after a bale of insulation had fallen through the ceiling seven days before the fatal accident. The charity had also been warned by a contractor in January 2010 that the roof space was dangerous.

Love and Joy Ministries Ltd was found guilty after a trial in 2013. Keith Tyson gave evidence on behalf of Liverpool City Council.

Love and Joy Ministries Ltd was fined £65,000 and ordered to pay £135,000 towards Liverpool City Council’s costs after it was found guilty of breaching section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Keith Tyson, from Bootle, was sentenced to 33 weeks imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to complete 125 hours unpaid work and to pay £1,500 towards the council’s costs after he pleaded guilty to breaching section 3(2) of the HSWA 1974.

In passing sentence, His Honour Judge Graham Morrow QC found that the charity had wanted the job done “on the cheap” and that “it was inevitable that something would go wrong”. He said Pastor Tani Omideyi, the director of the charity, had deliberately lied to the jury about key points.

In passing sentence the judge took into account the charity’s good work in the community and their financial state, adding that had the charity been a normal commercial business with the means to pay a large fine, he would have had no hesitation in fining it £250,000.

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