News Criminal Regulatory 15th Jun 2017

James Buchanan secures acquittal of excavator driver on charges of manslaughter by gross negligence, perverting the course of justice and Section 2 HSWA.

DW, a self-employed excavator driver, faced prosecution – together with Conquest Homes LLP and AW – for the part they were alleged to have played in the death of a groundworker at a construction site and the subsequent attempt to cover up any evidence of wrongdoing.

In 2014, Conquest Homes began work at the site in Northampton. The project was overseen by AW, a Director of Conquest Homes and the Site Manager appointed by the Principal Contractor.

The company chose DW to undertake excavation works on site, in particular the excavation of drainage trenches. In September 2014, a drainage trench collapsed and a groundworker was crushed to death by a pile of stone and sand. The trench had been dug to a depth of about 2m and the Crown alleged nothing had been done to support the sides of the trench to prevent collapse.

Both the prosecution and the co-defendants AW and Conquest Homes alleged that DW was a sub-contractor responsible for planning the excavation works and for supervising the two groundworkers who, it was alleged, were employees of DW.

DW maintained that he was a self-employed excavator driver who, along with the two groundworkers, had been employed on a day rate to undertake excavation work under the direction and supervision of AW and Conquest Homes.

Shortly after the fatal accident, DW contacted a friend in order to obtain RAMS relating to the excavation work on site. Blank template documents were provided and then amended and backdated to give the impression that they had been in place prior to commencement of the works on site. This was done, said DW, on the instruction of Conquest Homes in order to ensure the continuation post-accident of works on site.

After an 8-week trial at Northampton Crown Court, DW was acquitted of manslaughter by gross negligence, perverting the course of justice and an offence contrary to Section 2 HSWA. He was convicted of an offence contrary to Section 3 HSWA.

Conquest Homes and AW were convicted of all offences alleged against them, including manslaughter by gross negligence.

James was instructed by Simon Milburn of Hunt & Coombs.

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