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Peter Smith defends in health & safety case before District Judge Gwyn Jones in Llandudno Magistrates’ Court

Gwynedd Council v. DJ Fruit Limited & Sole Director; Llandudno Magistrates’ Court. Before District Judge Gwyn Jones (2017)

This prosecution by the Local Authority (“LA”) related to an independent contractor who had undertaken work at the defendant’s premises attending unannounced but assisting with a roller shutter door which had been damaged.

The accident happened when the contractor was permitted, with the assistance of an employee of the company and then its director, to get onto the pallet of a fork lift truck and raised to around 6’.

As the contractor loosened the tension on the cables to the roller shutter door, the shutters went down and his hand entered into a gap which led to him losing the tops of three fingers and falling from the pallet on the fork lift truck.

The incident took place in December 2014, pre-dating the introduction of section 85 of LASPO 2012 thereby limiting the courts sentencing powers.

The company had risk assessed work at height and suitable and sufficient equipment (not fork lift and pallet) was to be used along with supervision, not least properly plan.

Unusually, the LA put 18 charges before the court; 9 against the company and 9 against the director. At the first hearing, the LA withdrew 16 of the charges leaving a section 3(1) of the 1974 Act against the company and a section 37(1) of the same against the director. Guilty pleas were indicated and the matter was adjourned for the parties to submit relevant documentation and bundles to argue venue and should the court retain the matter, sentence.

In the result, the learned District Judge accepted jurisdiction and sentenced.

The LA had put culpability as ‘High’, ‘Level B’ harm with a ‘High likelihood of harm’. This was contrasted with the defendants submission that culpability was ‘Medium’ and ‘Medium likelihood of harm’ in the circumstances. After taking some time, the District Judge found in favour of the defendants submissions and sentenced the company using a £24,000 starting point and fining it £16,000. The director was fined £10,000 and costs reduced significantly for unreasonable delay especially in respect of the director and two years given to pay. 

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