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Safety and Health Practitioner (SHP) is first for independent health and safety news.
October 5, 2012

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Builder jailed after wall-collapse death trial

A builder charged with the manslaughter of a three-year-old child, who was fatally crushed when a wall collapsed, has been imprisoned for two years.

Meg Burgess was killed when a wall designed by George Collier and constructed by his company, Parcol Developments Ltd, collapsed on to a public footpath in the Welsh coastal resort of Prestatyn, where she was walking with her mother, on 26 July 2008. The wall failed after pressure from infill, the court heard.

The three-week trial of Mr Collier, concluded earlier today (5 October) after a jury at Mold Crown Court found him guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence. Parcol Developments, based in Conwy, previously pleaded guilty on 7 December 2011 to a breach of section 3(1) of the HSWA 1974. No additional fine or costs were awarded against the company because it has ceased trading and has no funds.

Rosemary Ainslie, lawyer for the CPS Special Crime division, said: “Mr Collier was responsible for the design and construction of the wall but did not make sure it was built to safe standards; nor did he prevent members of the public from walking past it, with terrible consequences.

“The jury has found Mr Collier guilty of gross-negligence manslaughter and his conviction should act not only as a reminder of the dangers of sub-standard building work but also of the consequences for those who carry it out.

“I extend my deepest sympathies to the family of young Meg Burgess.”

Given Mr Collier’s direct role in the incident, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided in August last year that he should be charged with gross-negligence manslaughter.

A spokesperson for the CPS told SHP at the time that “there would be nothing to gain” from prosecuting a now defunct small company for corporate manslaughter when the person “directly responsible” is facing a charge of gross-negligence manslaughter.

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Andrew
Andrew
9 years ago

Tim, I work for an aviation company. The regulation and compliance framework is effective – necessarily so – but hideously expensive to operate.
And what’s to stop small operators ignoring the reports anyway? They already ignore WAH and rafts of other legislation.

Bob
Bob
9 years ago

I don`t know where details are?

But he built a retaining wall without determining the imposed loading to said wall.

He is not a Structural Engineer, therefore not capable of determining loading and resistance to such loading. (Regardless of alleged experience, as was clearly evident upon collapse of said wall)

As a direct consequance of being incompetent to undertake this task, the resulting avoidable incident ocured.

Not the first time and will not be the last, unfortunately?

Bob
Bob
9 years ago

the wall had not been suitably designed or constructed and measures were not taken to safeguard members of the public when the wall was backfilled on the day of the incident

Extract as taken from the case notes available on the HSE Website.

No further details given.

Unfortunately this is a typical failure in the domestic environment, the need for approved design is required under CDM, but as is noted elswhere in SHP this requirement is often not upheld.

CDM guidance already exists?

David
David
9 years ago

The sentence is totally inadequate and shows the lack of respect our judiciary have for a three year old life lost and the pain and suffering of the family and friends. This is no deterrent to prevent similar accidents.

Paul
Paul
9 years ago

Not what I would call an accident but most definitely a reasonably forseeable event. He will be out in just over a year but the guilt of being responsible for the manslaughter of a 3 year old child will hopefully live with him for the remainder of his life

Sue
Sue
9 years ago

I sympathise with Mr Collier, who, I am sure, did not intend the consequences.

I am concerned that the CPS felt ‘there would nothing to be gained’ from further prosecution with regard to health and safety. Surely Mr Collier had adequate insurance. Without further prosecution the bill for this falls to the public, I believe. This is not acceptable.

Tim
Tim
9 years ago

The court thinks that this will ‘act as a reminder of the dangers of sub-standard work’. Unless the details of what was done wrong are well publicized so that others can learn from it, it may act as a reminder but won’t prevent it happening again.
Clearly the other comments suggest that the correspondents have more knowledge of the circumstances than have been published here. Where are these details available?

Tim
Tim
9 years ago

I didn’t see in the report that he is not a structural engineer and anyway, I know of structures designed by structural engineers which have collapsed so perhaps being one does not mean that you will always get it right?
Who has it in their power to publish the technical details of the failings? Whoever they are, they need to get their act together and start to disseminate the information if they really want to stop it happening again. It works in the aviation industry (AAIB), why not ours?